Indefinite strike looms over Massmart and its Makro stores

 ·28 Oct 2022

An indefinite strike looms over Massmart and its Makro stores as wage disputes remained deadlocked after months of negotiations through Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) facilitated processes.

The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) – representing about 85% of staff at Makro – began a limited-duration strike at 22 stores on Wednesday (26 October) over the wage disputes, which is expected to end at 06h00 on Saturday.

However, Saccawu has said that it would pursue an indefinite nationwide strike if Makro, and its parent company Massmart, fail to improve a current wage increase offer that is well below inflation.

“Should Massmart fail to budge on its unacceptable offer, we will be applying again for a strike notice, and this time it will be indefinite,” said Saccawu.

Massmart has offered Makro employees a 4.5% increase, which translates to a R300 monthly increase, while the union is demanding a R900 increase across the board, or 12%, whichever is greater. The association also demands the following:

  • A minimum wage increase to R8,000 per month;
  • Increase in working hours from 160 hours to 195 per month;
  • A hike in sales commissions from 10% to 20%;
  • A 13th cheque in December for all employees; and
  • Uniform allowance of R100.

Saccawu noted that it would be willing to compromise and accept an increase close to the inflation rate of 7% if Massmart is ready to come to the table with a decent offer.

It added that 4.5% is simply not enough during the economic hardship experienced by its workers and that worker’s pay of “R5,000 gets wiped out” by rising transport and food costs and other basic necessities.

Massmart’s response

Massmart said that the union’s demands are unrealistic, and the deadlock in negotiations has been ongoing for months, which prompted the company to put strike contingency plans in place before it commenced.

“The union demands, including a 12% wage increase and increasing sales commission from 10% to 20%, are intuitively unrealistic. We have been negotiating with the union for eight months, during which time there has been little progress on their demands,” Massmart said.

“Makro has implemented strike contingency plans, which include deploying temporary employees who have been trained in our store processes – meaning we anticipate little to no disruptions to normal store trading at its stores,” it added.

Massmart noted that this decision by the union had been taken unilaterally in the absence of their conducting strike ballots across the Makro store base – adding that this approach shows that the union has been negotiating in bad faith.

The parent company also said that there has, as of Wednesday morning (26 October), been a sharp increase in Makro employees resigning from their union membership.

“We noted diminished staff support for the strike as it progressed into its second day on Thursday (27 October),” Massmart said.

Read: A look at Pick n Pay’s new flagship store – which will be the blueprint for its ‘premium’ revamp across South Africa

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