9 August 2018

Namibia: Shoprite Surrenders to People

SHOPRITE will drop disciplinary charges against its 93 workers following the withdrawal of its N$4,5 million damages lawsuit last week.

The retailer issued a statement yesterday to NUNW secretary general Job Muniaro saying that it was willing to withdraw the disciplinary charges on condition that the workers sign a final warning.

"If employees agree to be issued with final written warnings in respect of their participation in the unprotected strike on 28 and 29 July 2015, the continuation of the disciplinary hearing will consequently be ceased," said Shoprite divisional manager in Namibia Paul Malan.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, Muniaro said the dispute between Shoprite and the workers was over.

"We had a fruitful meeting with Shoprite and as a result the hearings are dropped and Shoprite has further accepted that workers can be represented by unions," said Muniaro.

He also thanked the public for standing with the workers in their fight against exploitation.

The long-standing charges against the Shoprite workers stem from a strike in July 2015 for wage and benefits increases.

The withdrawal of charges, and the N$$4,5 million damages lawsuit, came after hundreds of people demonstrated in front of Shoprite's flagship store in Windhoek last Thursday in solidarity with the workers, and as the Centre for People's Resistance, which was founded by the workers' lawyers, Nixon Marcus Public Law Office, called for a consumer boycott of Shoprite and its subsidiaries.

The call to boycott Shoprite continued even after the damages suit was withdrawn last week.

"The withdrawal of charges is not enough, and until the disciplinary hearing is also dropped, the boycott is still on," the workers' lawyer, Uno Katjipuka, said last week.

In a response to the boycott call, a number of shopping trolleys filled with consumer goods were abandoned unpaid yesterday at Checkers Maerua Mall cashiers by members of the public, who are "boycotting" all Shoprite outlets.

According to reports, the fake shoppers would have the items scanned, hand the cashiers Boycott Shoprite flyers instead of cash, and walk away.

When The Namibian arrived at the shop, one of the cashiers was standing with 15 receipts of scanned unpaid goods that had to be cancelled.

"The idea is to frustrate Shoprite management so that they know we are serious about the boycott. They should know we are not making empty threats," a cashier related what she was told by one of the boycotters.

The Boycott Shoprite movement has also attracted support from South African trade unions.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa)'s secretary general, Irvin Jim, said in a solidarity statement that "Shoprite is an abusive company whose success depends on the rampant exploitation of labour. They treat workers as slaves, and even in South Africa they have a terrible reputation as an employer."

Jim said Numsa was in solidarity with Namibian workers of Shoprite.

"They had no choice but to embark on a strike. Had they not embarked on a strike, the world would not know about the suffering inflicted on them by the cruel management of the company," he said.

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