The Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU) will next week meet Shoprite management to find a lasting solution regarding better working conditions for the retail giant’s employees.
Shoprite workers across the country work an average of more than 45 hours per week for low salaries compared to their counterparts at other grocery stores such as Pick n Pay, SPAR and Woermann Brock. This is in contravention of Namibia’s Labour Act Basic Conditions of Employment of 1992, which states that the normal hours of work should not exceed 45 hours a week.
According to the conditions, if the working week is five days, then the working day may not exceed nine hours.
For those working six days per week, ordinary working hours should not exceed 7.5 hours a day.
One employee at Shoprite in Windhoek, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, claimed that their annual bonuses have been reduced from about N$900 to N$700 in recent years and that they do not receive benefits such as medical aid, pension, transport allowance and housing allowance like their counterparts at other retail shops.
The employee also said the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, through its Food Bank initiative, had stopped buying food hampers from Shoprite, due to the unfair labour practices by the South African retailer.
“In the past, employees used to get more than N$900 as bonus, but of late we have been receiving N$700, while some receive N$500,” the Shoprite source said.
“I think the reason why workers at Woermann Brock, SPAR and Pick n Pay are not complaining is because they are well paid because even a casual worker at the till gets about N$4,000 a month unlike here in Shoprite.”
NAFAU General Secretary, Jacob Penda, confirmed next week’s meeting with Shoprite management, adding that they will discuss possible ways to improve the workers conditions.
He told the Windhoek Observer that he was shocked to learn that Shoprite has “permanent part-time workers”.
“We are going to meet with the management of Shoprite next week. I am not sure exactly about the date, but it is next week and we will update you after the meeting.
“It is very strange to learn that some employees in Shoprite and Checkers have been working for seven years and are still casual. These employees do not have benefits such as pension, medical aid, transport allowance and housing allowance and these are some of the things that we are fighting for,” Penda said.
“I have never come across a term such as a permanent part-time worker. I just want to urge all Shoprite employees to unite and not to be divided because we are here for them.”
Shoprite Namibia representative, Schalk Pienaar, however said he is not aware of any meeting with NAFAU.
“I am not aware of any meeting, and in that case no further comment,” Pienaar said.
The Shoprite Group of Companies is Africa’s largest food retailer with 2,689 outlets in 15 countries.
Shoprite Holdings Ltd is a public company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with secondary listings on both the Namibian and Zambian Stock Exchanges.
In 2014, several Shoprite/Checkers outlets in Windhoek closed their doors after employees stopped working over low wages.
Shoprite also stand accused of violating Namibian labour regulations, including not having formal internal grievance procedures or a disciplinary code.
Last year, labour Minister Erkki Nghimtina accused Shoprite of being exploitative and undermining the job security of over 4,300 workers in Namibia.