The Centre for People’s Resistance in Namibia has called for a boycott of Shoprite and a mass demonstration on August 5, in support of the 93 workers who are being sued by the retailer for striking for salary increases in July 2015.
Shoprite Namibia is suing 93 of its employees for N$4,5 million over a strike that the workers staged in July 2015.
The company is demanding that the workers compensate it for an alleged loss of profits, legal costs of court action and disciplinary hearings that followed on the strike, as well as the costs incurred to employ temporary labour while the workers were on strike from 28 to 29 July 2015.
The Shoprite and Checkers outlets workers went on a strike three years ago to demand a wage rise and addition of medical aid, transport and housing allowance from their employers.
In court documents seen by The Namibian, Shoprite claims the workers were aware that the dates they chose to strike represent the busiest trading days for the company and consequently cost them profit losses and damaged their reputation.
The company is suing the 93 employees for N$288 000 over the alleged loss of profits from sales that were lost on 28 July 2015, N$3,4 million for legal costs of a Labour Court case with which the company obtained an interdict against the strike and for the costs of subsequent disciplinary hearings, and for N$189 750 for the costs of employing temporary labour on 28 and 29 July 2015.
Shoprite Namibia also wants the employees to be ordered to pay N$616 398 to the company for the costs of the venue that has been used for the workers’ disciplinary hearing. The case against the 93 employees was filed at the Windhoek High Court on Tuesday.
Speaking to The Namibian on condition on anonymity, Shoprite and Checkers workers who were waiting for their disciplinary hearings to take place at the Warehouse Theatre in Windhoek yesterday said all they wanted with their strike and an accompanying demonstration was for their employers to hear their cry.
“On the first day of the strike, we staged the demonstration inside the shop where we refused to work until our managers come to hear us out. Instead, they called the police on us, saying what we were doing was illegal,” recalled one of the workers.
The workers further expressed concern over the amount demanded from them.
“Where are we going to get [N$5,4 million], they don’t even pay us that much money,” the workers questioned.
A mother of five and additional three adopted children sat in the crowd waiting for the outcome of the hearing as she reflected on her life. Anna (not her real name) has worked for Shoprite for eighteen years as a cashier, earning N$3 000 a month with pension and social security as her only benefits.
“My salary is not my own. It belongs to my younger children’s nanny, transport to and from school for my older children, study policies I took to ensure my children will get a better education. I don’t look forward to payday,” she said with a sinking heart.
The chairperson of the disciplinary hearing is soon expected to make a ruling that will determine whether the workers will lose their jobs or face other disciplinary actions.