Unions condemn job cuts at Pick n Pay

Pick n Pay is planning to retrench 3,500 workers.

Pick n Pay has announced that it is to shed 3,500 jobs in the Western Cape. Its announcement was met this week by condemnation from the union at the frontline, SACCAWU as well as COSATU and SAFTU.

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The South African Catering Commercial Allied Workers Union, SACCAWU has vowed to fight the retrenchments and the manner in which the retail company, Pick n Pay is handling the situation. Earlier this week, the retailer said it will cut 3,500 jobs due to lower profits. Speaking to Elitsha, SACCAWU Western Cape regional secretary, Crosby Booi said they will fight the retrenchments and that all the social partners need to ensure that jobs are not lost. “We need the government and employers and the unions to sit down and come up with a plan of fighting job losses,” said Booi.

The union has also condemned the manner in which the retail company is handling the retrenchments. According to the union, the retail company has collective bargaining agreements at national level with the union, but wants to approach the retrenchments at regional level.” This is clear disregard for collective bargaining agreements that we have with them,” said Booi.

The union also claims that the retail company has gone behind its back and approached the workers with voluntary retrenchment packages since April this year. The letter to the union from Pick n Pay that Elitsha is in possession of, states that the company has considered ‘voluntary separation’ as an alternative to retrenchment. According to the letter the “voluntary severance package offered across the business during April and May 2017 did not yield significant cost savings.”

The retrenchments by Pick n Pay in the Western Cape will affect the vienna factory and five workers are likely to be retrenched there.

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Pick n Pay in its statement excuses the retrenchments as an unfortunate recourse that the retailer has taken to keep prices for consumers low.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) have both condemned the retrenchments.

COSATU has called for more government intervention to ensure that workers do not lose their jobs. Meanwhile SAFTU has called for the workers to fight back. According to SAFTU, the retail sector displays the most “obscene levels of inequality”.

The statement from the federation has criticised the bonuses that retail companies pay to their executives. “Pick n Pay has tried to appear more sensitive by denying their executives any bonuses this year, but workers will not be fooled. In 2016, its CEO Richard Brasher received a short-term annual bonus of R15m, taking his remuneration to R24.4m, so it’s is hardly a sacrifice for him to have to survive in 2017 on remuneration of  just R10m even without his bonus,” reads the statement.

The retrenchments by Pick n Pay come on the back of job losses in the retail, food and manufacturing industries due to the global economic crisis and South Africa’s relegation to junk status. South Africa has seen job losses in the poultry industry due to cheap chicken imports from the United States. Rainbow Chicken retrenched 1,350 workers whilst Country Bird closed its facility in Mahikeng in the North West.

In May, General Motors announced that it was leaving South Africa, a move that will see about 600 job cuts and will have a negative impact all the way down the value chain. This week, the luxury retailer, Stuttafords also closed its doors with 900 workers losing their jobs so far.

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