Limited Duration Industrial Strike Action Across Walmart/Massmart Brands In South Africa

No turning back, ASIJIKI – Even the Labour Court Agrees!

Today, members of SACCAWU employed by Walmart across its Massmart subsidiaries, take to the streets after protracted negotiations with the employer at numerous platforms, including CCMA-facilitated processes, High Level Leadership and National Negotiations Teams all aimed at finding solutions to variety of disputes relating to guaranteed quality employment, improvements of benefits and working conditions as well as jobs security. SACCAWU for its part approached these negotiations with integrity, good faith, honesty and transparency, and without any temptation to resort to cheap bargaining tactics or strategy from the onset.

Preceding this stage of dispute, more particularly at commencement stages of our negotiations with the company, we engaged at High Level Leadership meetings; with the objective of securing a settlement in as swift and responsible manner as possible, but the company demonstrated high levels of intransigence, subtle dishonesty and arrogance towards every Union’s proposals., probably with fixation on Walmart’s union-free philosophy. Massmart, owned by the world’s largest grocer, Walmart, is claiming to be grappling with survival challenges in South Africa.

The company, which owns Massdiscounters, Game (and until recently Dionwired), Rhino Cash and Carry, Jumbo Cash and Carry, Massfresh, Massmart Logistics, Masscash, Cambridge Foods, Makro, Independent Cash & Carry , Browns/Weirs and Builders Warehouse; and employing about 52,000 workers. Since February 2020, the company has engaged in unilateral processes and actions that simply were meant to undermine the job security, decent wage and quality jobs. As a result of such intended onslaught towards its members, SACCAWU engaged with Massmart in serious endeavours to avert what clearly could spell doom and undermine jobs security in this economic sector.

SACCAWU always framed her mind with seriousness when faced with strike action possibilities, for we know adversity and hardship that our members are to go through when engage in industrial action, which inevitably leads to double suffering in respect of loss of income during the strike. Our approach to strike action is guided by a three-branched strategy: (i) a scientific analysis of the cost of reproduction of a worker in the sector under negotiations, (ii) the actual economic status of the company and (iii) direct participation and mandating by members in both the initial information gathering and analysis. In this instance, we are compelled by the sustained company’s negative attitudes to heed the call by our members, after being consulted on the status quo; to announce a limited duration industrial action in the form of limited duration strike from the 26th to the 28th of May 2021. Also, the Union will be engaged in marches in about ±20 localities across the country, wherein members and leadership of the Alliance are expect to participate and support the workers.

As a responsible Union, we are aware of the miserable conditions of life of the majority of the Black African workers who are the backbone of the economy but are expected to survive on extremely low, colonial and very inferior and often racist-inspired wages whilst also subjected to atypical forms of employment. These workers have endured sustained and vicious attacks on their livelihood and jobs by the combined might of the Massmart bosses. We are very much aware of the fact that, South Africa is suffering from acute unemployment, mass poverty and extreme inequalities; precisely because the racist, colonial economic base of South Africa, which depends on and feasts upon extremely cheap Black African labour, has not been transformed, 27 years into our democratic dispensation!

Despite our productive and constructive attitude in the negotiations, the employer has adopted a very conservative and backward stance; determined to maintain the apartheid colonial working conditions structure, blended with serious attempts to Walmartise the South African retail economic sector, an accumulation strategy based on the super exploitation practices here in South Africa and the world over. We are determined to save the South African economy from this reckless and absolutely dangerous path most of employers, led by Walmart/Massmart, continue to be steeped in.

We have been tested to the limit and thus had since resolved to engage in industrial action as a result of Massmart provocation, and now SACCAWU’s militancy is a direct product of our rejection of the dehumanising of work and the supper exploitative working conditions we are subjected to, at the hands of Massmart and her mother-company Walmart.

The Company has attempted to undermine the strike and deny workers their right to strike by approaching the Labour Court yesterday (25/05/2021), on an alleged, but falsified, urgent basis in an effort to manipulate the Court into agreeing that the strike is illegal claiming that there are agreements with the Union. To their disappointment, the Court today maintained its credibility, independence and high level of objectivity and dismissed such application, effectively ruling against the flimsy arguments advanced by the Company. In doing so the Court rightly surmised that there is nothing illegal about the SACCAWU strike and workers have every right to exercise their right to strike! This indeed is victory for the workers as they arch on to defend the gains they have won through sweat, blood and tears!

The issues currently in dispute, as the company engaged in downward variation of employment standards are:

  • The employer has unilaterally reduced minimum number of working hours from:- Guaranteed 195 hours per month to a minimum of 120 hours per month;
  • Employer unilaterally reduced guaranteed 45 hours per week to a minimum of 40 hours per week;
  • The employer unilaterally reduced guaranteed 40 hours per week to a minimum of 27 hours per week.
  • The employer’s unilateral transfer of employees to new employers with less favourable working conditions despite the transfers being allegedly in terms of section 197.
  • Other working conditions – Builders warehouse does not have the same parental rights agreement as Makro and Game. The cases in point being workers transferred on a sale to Devland and “internally” to a Walmart entity called GenPact who are stripped of substantial benefits tantamount to daylight robbery of workers.

The Union demands the employer to restore the terms and conditions that applied before the unilateral changes as well as parity, equity and/or equal pay for equal work value. As a responsible Union, we remain open to legitimate and bona-fide engagements that are genuinely intended to resolve the dispute and to this end the ball is in the company’s court.

Issued by the SACCAWU Secretariat:

Mduduzi Mbongwe -082 336 5325

Contact persons: Bonile Mike Sikani – 082 336 8296

Lucas Ramatlhodi – 082 336 5325

Issued by SACCAWU Media Unit

For any further enquiries or clarity, kindly contact:
Mike Michael Bonile Sikani:
0823368296

Lucas Ramatlhodi: 082 336 5325