Strike at Makro to spread to other Walmart-owned stores

Saccawu will be marching to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria to hand over a memorandum of demands calling on the embassy to intervene and resolve the impasse between Makro and workers. Photo by Chris Gilili

The retail company has been attacking members of the union, suspending and dismissing hundreds of workers for participating in pickets and the strike.

The South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) announced during a press conference held in Johannesburg on Tuesday that it will double its efforts to fight for workers at Makro. This follows a march to the Makro store in Silverlakes, Pretoria, where the retail union tabled a memorandum of demands to management.

In statement released by the union, Saccawu lambasts, the “venomous” decision taken by Makro to dismiss 600 striking workers and suspend more than 200 with the aim of dismissing them.

These are not the first workers to be dismissed by Makro, according to Saccawu; in February, the company dismissed over 400 workers following a disciplinary hearing that was conducted by the store.

“These workers have done nothing wrong except to march and man picket lines in support of their demands, for better wages and working conditions. Makro charged and continues to dismiss these workers for an alleged breach of picketing rules and acts of intimidation, all of which the union vehemently refutes,” reads the union’s statement.

Saccawu has lodged cases of unfair dismissal and unfair suspension with the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). “We are confident we will get our workers back at work. It is important to note the conduct of Makro, and its concerted effort to sever the relations which it has with the union through its members,” said Saccawu. “In the light of this, Saccawu has no option but to intensify its fight with the company and as such to broaden it to include civil society organizations, international solidarity.”

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The union accused Makro of undermining the current collective bargaining process by offering workers a unilateral increase in wages on a condition that they resign from the union.

Saccawu is demanding:

  • an across-the-board increase of R900,
  • a minimum wage of R8,000 per month, and
  • an improved commission on sales from 10% to 20% for sales persons.

It also demands the reinstatement of dismissed workers, a uniform allowance of R100 and a moratorium on retrenchments.

The unions gave Makro 48 hours to respond to their memorandum last month, but to date have not received any response from the company.

During the briefing, Saccawu deputy general secretary, Mduduzi Mbongwe said,”Their aim is to intensify the strike action, since Makro management seems to be stubborn. We want to bring them back to the negotiations table. We also want to intensify the consumer boycott, so that they don’t get enough business.” He said they are mostly serious about defending collective bargaining, which seems to be under attack.

In the statement, the union said it believes its members are being earmarked by Makro management as being undesirable employees in their establishments.

Saccawu Gauteng regional leader, Darlington Ndlovu told Elitsha that Makro has announced in the media that they have a 6% offer for workers. “We want them to directly write to the union and make that offer to us, so that the union can consider. We know even the current dismissals are their form of retrenchments; they are using the strike to retrench workers and their tactics will not work,” he said.

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The union announced that, tomorrow, it will be marching to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria to hand over a memorandum of demands calling on the embassy to intervene and resolve the impasse between Makro and workers.

According to Ndlovu, the union is aware that Massmart is no longer listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange but on an American bourse. “We are targeting that embassy for them to account for the company which they have deployed to South Africa,” he said.

The union also announced that it has applied for a secondary strike which starts tomorrow. It said the secondary strike will included workers from other Walmart-owned companies such as Builders Warehouse, Game, Mass Discounters and Jumbo Cash and Carry.

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About Chris Gilili 58 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.