Windhoek — The Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) is accusing Shoprite Group Namibia of exploitation by paying their workers salaries which the union described as "very low" compared to the current living conditions in the country.
Nafau general secretary Jacob Penda, addressing the media yesterday, said Shoprite workers have not been represented by any union as an exclusive bargaining agency for the past seven years.
"They have not been represented in wages and conditions of employment negotiations," he said.
As a result, Penda said, workers at the country's largest groceries store do not get any benefits such as transport allowance, housing allowance or medical aid. He said that the union last year embarked on organising and recruiting Shoprite workers but Shoprite has been refusing them access to their buildings.
"Early this year, the majority of workers joined us but when Shoprite noticed that the union is obtaining 50 + 1 percent majority representation, the company collaborated with other unions, allowing them to access and meet workers at the workplace while refusing to grant us access," Penda said.
He added that a request of recognition was submitted to Shoprite in January this year, however, Shoprite has not responded to the request and that prompted the union to declare the dispute with the office of the labour commissioner in May this year.
He continued that the conciliation meetings were convened on June 6, June 18 and July 5, 2019 at the office of the labour commissioner where parties verified members.
"It was discovered that 112 union members were not recorded and the company claims that those workers are not employed by Shoprite any more, but they are still working," he said.
According to Penda, during the conciliation meeting at the office of the labour commissioner, the company claimed that the union did not have 50 + 1 percent majority when the request of recognition was made in January and Shoprite refused to consider all membership application forms as part of that request.
"Shoprite has a 4 305 total workforce currently, while Nafau has 2 542 members and that gives the union 59 percent. Due to disagreement and debates over majority representation between January and June 2019 the parties agreed to apply for a new request of recognition to be submitted which includes all 2 542 Nafau members," said Penda.
"We are calling on all Shoprite workers to be vigilant and conscious, to remain Nafau members and not join other unions as Shoprite is allowing those unions to confuse workers," he said.
"This is done so that none of those unions get the majority for the recognition agreement to be in place," he added.
He said the new request for recognition was forwarded to the company on July 5 and the union expects a response within 30 days from the date of submission.
"Should they fail to provide feedback within 30 days the matter will then be referred to the office of the labour commissioner," he warned.
"I would like to inform Shoprite workers that their wages proposal was forwarded to the company on the 24th June 2019 under signatures of shop stewards and the wages negotiation was proposed to start on the 26 June 2019 between the shop stewards and Shoprite," he said.
However, he said Shoprite responded that they will give a salary increment to workers effective from July 1 but did not confirm the wages negotiation.
"And this clearly indicates that Shoprite is not in favour of the wages negotiation which is unacceptable. Nafau will assist the workers by all means to ensure that wage negotiation has taken place," he added.