Windhoek-The Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT) has called on Shoprite Namibia to drop disciplinary charges against over 100 workers for a 2015 strike they took part in.
ESJT feels Shoprite should instead start negotiating with the workers in good faith after it has dropped the charges.
Over 100 workers at Shoprite in Windhoek have been facing disciplinary charges for taking part in a strike almost two years ago.
Handing over a petition to the company management on Friday, ESJT spokesperson Elsie Ashipala called on Shoprite to drop the disciplinary charges against its workers immediately.
She said the workers are the ones who were poorly treated and victimised and such practices have no place in an independent Namibia.
“We appeal to those members of the public who have not yet signed the petition to add their voice and support Shoprite workers. We must show solidarity and give meaning to our slogan ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’,” she said.
Ashipala says there are several workers’ rights violations that are entrenched in the way Shoprite operates.
She said this includes how the company uses and treats the so-called “permanent part-timers” or PPTs. She said an investigation by the Ministry of Labour found that a practice of “segregated employment” also exists at Shoprite/Checkers retailers and that workers on part-time contracts received far lower pay than permanent workers in the same job category.
“The contracts of these two groups of workers are not comparable and the ministry recommended that the employment contracts be reviewed to remove any disadvantage the PPTs suffer,” she said. According to Ashipala, Shoprite does not have a formal internal grievance procedure or disciplinary code.
“This has allowed Shoprite to essentially do what it wants when it comes to disciplinary matters,” she said, adding that the preferred tactic seems to be handing out written and final written warnings for any and all offences, without any kind of hearing being provided.
“What did the workers do to face the disciplinary charges? They decided to resist the illegal acts committed by Shoprite. They demanded to be treated with respect. They demanded to live in dignity and to improve their starvation wages. They endured endless violations of their rights and now face retrenchment,” she said.
She said unless Shoprite dropped the charges and engages with its workers fairly with a view to ensuring a living wage, “we must ask why consumers should continue buying from a company that tramples on workers’ rights and continues to exploit them”.