GAME has accused the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) of putting pressure on workers to go on a strike, but saying it did not expect the Black Friday shopping bonanza to be effected.
Saccawu said yesterday it was preparing to lead 18 000 members on an indefinite national strike on Friday at Massmart’s 229 stores over wages and unilateral changes to conditions of employment.
Massmart spokesperson Brian Leroni said the group was aware that Saccawu leadership was “cajoling” its members into taking strike action.
“It would appear that Saccawu’s approach has, in cases, involved threatening reluctant members to participate in a strike at a time when they would typically maximise sales commission based earnings due to higher footfall and sales volumes in our stores,” said Leroni.
Saccawu denied allegations of bullying members into going on strike.
“As an organisation we have structures. We make decisions based on what our regions tell us. We take mandates from our members. We cannot from this platform say we are going on a strike without a mandate from our structures,” said Saccawu deputy president Mike Tau.
The union’s top brass told journalists at its headquarters in Johannesburg it had received a mandate from shop stewards to strike.
“You cannot make decisions alone,” Saccawu deputy secretary general Mduduzi Mbongwe said.
Mbongwe said Saccawu would serve Massmart, the owner of retail outlets, including Game, Builders Warehouse and Makro, with a 48 hour strike notice. Friday’s strike action will culminate in a national day of action a week later involving national marches, with the main march scheduled for Johannesburg.
Mbongwe said as part of the mass action, the union sought to persuade consumers to boycott Massmart stores and plans were afoot for a secondary or sympathy strike.
He said the sympathy strike would take place at Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Clicks, Spar Group, Sun International and other companies organised by the union.
Mbongwe said there was a dispute over wages and conditions of employment at Builders Warehouse, Builders Express, Builders Trade Depot, Builders Superstores under the Massbuild banner.
Mbongwe said Saccawu was demanding an increase of R500 across the board (ATB), while Massbuild was offering R320 ATB or a 4.1 percent increase.
“Other areas of dispute involve unfair labour practice wherein the company is placing workers on unpaid seven days isolation whenever they have been embarking on lunch time pickets that were a build up to this national strike,” said Mbongwe.
Mbongwe also said the union was aggrieved after more than 380 workers were retrenched as a result of the group’s “store reorganisation”. Massmart undertook the reorganisation as part of a turnaround process aimed at cutting costs.
Mbongwe said there had been a unilateral change to terms and conditions of remaining workers shifted across other stores as part of the reorganisation. “The remaining workers affected by the store reorganisation has seen reduction in working hours and days that is accompanied by a significant reduction of wages and benefits of these workers,” said Mbongwe.
However, Leroni said strike action relating to wages and working conditions would be illegal on the basis that the strike certificate on which Saccawu was relying for this action relates primarily to Section 189 restructuring processes.
Leroni said this would further reinforce the unfortunate reputation Saccawu leadership appeared to be developing for providing its members with “bad advice”.
Leron said while the strike coincided with the festive season it would not meaningfully impact the Black Friday shopping bonanza given that the specials were spread across the month. He said the group had not yet received notification of strike action by the union as required by the Labour Relations Act.
Massmart’s share price closed 1.32 percent higher at R71.93 on the JSE yesterday.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE