Ultimatum delivered

Shoprite given three days to withdraw lawsuit

03 August 2018 | Labour

Shoprite has been given three days to withdraw a lawsuit in which it is suing 93 workers for N$4.5 million following a strike in 2015.

If the retail giant fails to do so, it will face a consumer boycott.

This is according to National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) secretary-general Job Muniaro, who called Shoprite out for its behaviour during a demonstration held in the Windhoek CBD yesterday.

The demonstration, held in Independence Avenue, brought a section of the city's main street to a standstill.

Among the protesters was former prime minister Nahas Angula, who said it is bad that Shoprite's image is always associated with negativity as a result of its unfair labour practices.

“It was a good education for them to be the subject of demonstrations; I am sure it is not good (for their image),” said Angula.

He called out Shoprite for its behaviour of “bribing” some workers not to demonstrate.

“They should make themselves an employer of choice. This thing of bribing individual workers will not take them anywhere,” Angula said.

In a summons filed with the Windhoek High Court, Shoprite claims it was unable to keep its shops open on 28 July 2015 and suffered a loss of N$288 000.

To avert the strike, Shoprite had to pay N$3.4 million in legal costs, while temporary staff were employed to keep its shops open at a cost of N$189 750. To conduct disciplinary hearings Shoprite had to fork out an additional N$616 398, bringing its total losses to N$4.5 million.

Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe said this week that because Shoprite was litigating on the basis of having lost revenue, it had a real prospect of winning.

“Unfortunately they do have some prospects. The law says it is wrong. Shoprite is litigating on the basis of 'you have caused damage to my business, you must pay'. Shoprite does not have internal policies. They justify it by saying they operate in many countries; that is just wrong.”

This, according to Tjombe, also made it difficult for workers to air their grievances, while it was easy for Shoprite executives to contact labour ministry officials.

Tjombe charged that the conduct of the ministry of labour had been “terrible” in the entire saga.

“There were investigations; the Equity Commission did an investigation. We don't know whether there has been compliance,” said Tjombe.

The special advisor in the ministry, Vicky Erenstein Ya Toivo, insisted that Shoprite had always been told that its workers needed to be represented by a union.

She said disunity, as a result of workers being fragmented, meant there was no bargaining unit for the affected employees.



OGONE TLHAGE