South Africa: Unions At Odds With Each Other Over Supermarket's Wage Increase

15 November 2019

Workers from a minority union are picketing a store in Louis Trichardt, but the majority union wants nothing to do with it

Over 40 Premjee & Sons Cash and Carry workers picketed, waved placards and chanted in Louis Trichardt on Monday outside the retailer's store in Kruger Street. They were demanding a salary increase.

The picketing workers are affiliated to the South African Retail and Allied Workers Union (SAFCRAWU).

But the retailer's HR manager Stephen Koch says 78% of workers are affiliated to South African Commercial Catering Workers Union (SACCAWU).

Monica Selemela from SACCAWU said its members are not part of the picket. She said since 1995 they have had a good relationship with management and every year they agree on a salary increase and their members are happy with the increase.

Koch said it will not recognise the SAFCRAWU workers demands as the shop had reached a closed shop agreement with SACCAWU.

Sonnyboy Sithagu, representing the SAFCRAWU workers said: "We engaged our management in April this year for salary increase, and they agreed to increase by R400. To our surprise, end of April there was no increase. Again, as a follow up, we engaged them in July but up to now we have not received any salary increase."

Most of the workers said they earn R3,900 per month.

Willie Hlongwani, 64, who said he has been working at the shop since 1987 when he earned R160 per month, said: "I actually failed to educate my children because I am earning very little money that can only be used for my transport and food."

He lives in Elim a township outside Louis Trichardt and said his transport costs him R360 a month.

Koch told GroundUp that Sithagu had been informed in writing that the R400 increase was agreed to with the majority union, and R400 was given across the board to all employees regardless of their union during Feb/March 2019. However, it was agreed that the increase take into account the adjustment to wages made by the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill on 1 January 2019. Employees would only get the difference after the increase from the NWM to bring the total increase to R400. Those who got more than R400 after the NMW adjustment would get no further increase.

On Wednesday the workers were still picketing and vowed to continue until they get an increase.

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