Shoprite saga sparks living wage calls

10 August 2018 | Labour

Shoprite has been urged to allow its workers to freely join trade unions, with the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) saying failure to do so would result in the retailer catching more flak over its labour practices.

Tucna president Mahongora Kavihuha said although Shoprite had agreed to drop its N$4.5 million lawsuit against 93 workers, following an illegal strike undertaken in 2015, this did not mean the retailer was off the hook.

He said Shoprite should allow its workers to freely join trade unions, so their working conditions and salaries could improve.

“We want them to create an atmosphere that unions must be welcome to recruit workers. Shoprite must also start reviewing its salary scales. There must be a dialogue before they become 'hardegat', by cancelling or stopping the deduction of union fees,” said Kavihuha.

The Shoprite experience, Kavihuha said, should serve as a wake-up call for other retailers.



Minimum wage

Turning to the issue of a minimum wage, Kavihuha said although it was a noble idea, there were many factors that needed to be considered before it can be introduced.

“The introduction of a minimum wage is not a solution in itself. It is not only a salary that will make workers happy, but many other things as well.”

According to him, while minimum wages had been set for construction workers and security guards, questions remained about whether this actually resulted in better living conditions.

“We have minimum wages for security guards and construction workers, but has it made life easier for them? There is an assumption that a living wage will make the lives of workers better.”

There would need to be a lot of work done around the issue of a minimum wage, if it is to be introduced, Kavihuha said.

“We need an incremental formula that will take into account the rise of inflation and the growth of the economy.”

Kavihuha also encouraged government to amend the Labour Act for the benefit of all workers.

Kavihuha's counterpart at the Namibia Union of National Workers (NUNW), Job Muniaro, echoed his sentiments.

“There are many things to consider and it is a matter of consulting and sitting together to come up with a solution,” Muniaro said.

Labour ministry permanent secretary, Bro-Matthew Shinguadja, said the introduction of a minimum wage should not be driven by emotions, fanned by the Shoprite saga.

“The national minimum wage agenda is a scientific process and not emotionally driven, hence the Shoprite situation is not the determining factor in this regard,” he said.

Shoprite this week agreed to drop a lawsuit against 93 workers for participating in an illegal strike in 2015.

In a lawsuit filed recently in the Windhoek High Court, the retailer began proceedings to sue the workers for N$4.5 million.

Amid a public outcry, Shoprite announced it would be dropping the lawsuit. It also agreed to drop disciplinary hearings, saying the workers would be given final written warnings instead.

Following the news that Shoprite had decided to drop its lawsuit, law firm Nixon Marcus, which was representing the workers, thanked the public for their support.

“Let us continue to show solidarity for the downtrodden, the exploited and the wretched of the earth. We thank you for the support and solidarity shown to the Shoprite workers.”

OGONE TLHAGE

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