Labour ministry supports Shoprite consumer boycott …ahead of workers’ demo this week

Government through the labour ministry has made it clear that it is behind the Shoprite boycott call while a potentially massive strike is on the horizons this week by aggrieved Shoprite workers who are protesting unfair labour practices.

The company finds itself in hot soup following its widely criticised decision to sue 93 workers of N$4.3 million over a strike that took place three years ago.

Speaking to The Villager, labour ministry Permanent Secretary Bro-Matthew Shingwadja disclosed that the boycott was supposed to have, in actual fact, been officially called on the 1st of May this year but the model of the strategy had not yet been finalised. 

“I think that’s the right way to do it. We have been engaging Shoprite for the last two and a half years on some of these issues to the extent that we even called the shareholders who flew in from South Africa and they keep promising.”

“This year in April precisely we wanted to meet with them. We were told now they are too busy with some other programs already. Then we said how can you say that when you are called by government? You give government a month’s postponement and we wanted to talk about these issues.”

“Then we said fine this is an investor who is not taking government seriously. We talked to the Namibian Employers’ Association where Shoprite is a member to bring our concerns to their member because we had foreseen this situation coming. So this boycott I think should be supported,” said Shingwadja. 

He said the reasons are that Shoprite’s treatment of its workforce compares to that of Walmart in the US, that it is anti-union and suffer from a superiority complex while they pick and choose what is good for them. 

“This is the concept of permanent party-timers; we tell them there is no such concept in Namibia. But because they use it in South Africa they adamantly refuse to change the system,” said the PS.

He also added that they have an advantage of lawyers who jump to their defence each time issues to do with labour practices arise. 

He said the company has been dodgy about carrying out a verification process of how many employees they have, although they have claimed to have 4 000 while government is not aware if these are gainfully employed.

Shoprite has to understand that it is not the power of money but the principle of good relationships which builds business, he said. 

Shingwadja said Shoprite is free to ship out if they cannot work well with Namibia and has urged consumers to heed the call for the boycott. 

Attempts to call Shoprite officials yesterday proved futile as they dodged around with others cutting calls.

 An assistant Human Resource manager, Babette Kamber refused to comment on whether the decision to sue the 93 employees had been made by Namibian authorities or those in South Africa.

She also refused to comment on whether business had started as usual in light of the weekend calls for a massive boycott. 

Labour activist Herbert Jauch has been calling for such a boycott for some time now and said he was happy that people were beginning to see the light.

He however slammed the labour ministry for being proactive rather than taking drastic actions to help the situation at the shops. 

He also encouraged retail outlet workers to stick to one huge union rather than affiliating to different unions without a majority.  

“This is one of the biggest problems for the workers at the moment. They are completely divided at shop flow level.  They belong to three different unions and currently non of these has an outright majority countrywide. This situation disadvantages them,” he said.