By: Ludorf Iyambo
On Friday, Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU) and Shoprite Namibia signed an agreement for Shoprite workers to be represented by the former only.
Willem Absalom, deputy general secretary of Nafau and Karen Smith, the retail’s divisional HR manager, signed the documents.
Absalom said that Shoprite did not have a recognised trade union to represent its employees; hence, the two parties entered into a deal for Nafau to represent Shoprite workers exclusively. The wage agreement, which was a highly contentious issue last year, leading to the High Court, has not yet been resolved.
Absalom said the two parties are singing recognition procedural agreement that outlines or provides how Shoprite and Nafau will contact themselves in terms of meetings, negotiations of recruiting new members to join the union and wages.
“We have agreed that the two parties will meet every year. In April, we’ll negotiate the benefit of the employees. We also decided to engage one another whenever there is a dispute between Shoprite and Nafau.
Before the matter goes to the labour commissioner, the parties must first meet and try to dissolve issues amicably without having a case at the labour commission,” he said.
Absalom further said the agreement also makes a provision in terms of disciplinary actions where the shop steward will go and represent the employees at the disciplinary hearing.
The secretary-general said there is also a procedure in terms of the appeal. If the outcome comes and is not in their favour, workers have the right to appeal.
The agreement document further provides training of the shop stewards to represent other employees.
“It also provides how the new members can join the union. I want to message any employer that entering into a relationship with a trade union is an excellent thing to do. The union is not there to cause trouble but to ensure that the laws are maintained, and justices prevail,” he said.
Smith said they are proud to partner with Nafau after many negotiations.
She stated that the agreement is just a mere document to procedures between the company and Nafau, who have 54% membership in Shoprite. “It is not a wages agreement. We still need to go to the wages agreement,” she said.
Mulibawa Tobias, one of the shop stewards when quizzed, said that he is happy to see the two parties signing an agreement.
“That is why we are here to be witnesses. It was not easy for two years, but we were not fighting. We were trying our best to get what we wanted,” he told The Villager.
Another shop steward, Emilia Ndafenongo, said that although it took a long time for Nafau and Shoprite to reach an agreement, she is happy that they finally agreed. “I want the company and the union to work together to benefit us workers and not to throw us in the bin,” said Emilia.
This comes after Shoprite workers in 2019 took a stand to join one union.
Last year, Nafau, along with Napwu, held a demonstration against Shoprite, in which they handed over a petition to the office of the Prime minister. The employees accused the retailer of making them work under slavery-like and unsatisfactory working conditions.
They also said they were being paid just a little over N$1000 with no benefits.