Business as usual for Massmart, despite possible 18 000-worker strike

Assures customers their November-long Black Friday shopping will not be disrupted.
Saccawu says commission earners in the Massdiscounters segment, which includes Game stores, are being set ‘unreasonably high targets’. Image: Moneyweb

Retail and wholesale group Massmart – which owns Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse stores – has assured its customers that planned strike action by the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) will not interfere with their Black Friday shopping plans.

“Massmart has implemented the necessary strike contingency plans including the deployment of Massmart experienced temporary employees who are familiar with our processes to ensure the continued smooth operation of our stores,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

Saccawu, which is affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions, has made clear its intentions of embarking on an indefinite strike at 229 Massmart stores across the country on Friday (November 19).

The union’s planned strike action – which is anticipated to draw 18 000 workers across the country – relates to wage and labour disputes it has with Walmart majority-owned Massmart.

Read: Massmart surges over 8%, as turnaround gains traction

Sithembele Tshwete Saccawu spokesperson told Moneyweb on Wednesday the union has three issues with Massmart:

  1. It is disputing the reduction of working hours for Massmart group employees from 195 hours to 120 hours a month.
  2. It is demanding a R500 wage increase across the board from MassBuild. Massmart has placed a R320 increase or alternatively a 4.1% increase on the table, both of which the union has rejected.
  3. It has an employment dispute with MassDiscounters – which includes the Game brand – relating to changes to the terms of employment. Saccawu says workers in this segment, who are commission earners, are being set “unreasonably high targets”.

The last resort

Tshwete says the union has exhausted all efforts to engage with the Walmart-led retailer and resuming strike action on Friday is the only way to voice its grievances.

Massmart has questioned the union’s intentions in embarking on the strike action, further accusing it of threatening members who are reluctant to strike, even though participating may chip away at their income.

Tshwete disputes the claims, describing these as a smear campaign by Massmart to discredit Saccawu. The union says workers understand the financial sacrifice they are making in joining the strike.

“That’s the whole point of a strike: you make sacrifices. It’s the ‘no work no pay’ principle that applies and workers go on strike conscious of that,” says Tshwete.

Strike threat adds to wholesaler’s woes

The strike action, especially during the Black Friday promotional month, threatens to halt Massmart’s recovery plans which were well underway.

Read:

On Monday BankservAfrica released its recent point-of-sale (POS) and ATM data which revealed that consumer spend in the 2021 Black Friday period is expected to be higher than the 2020 period.

Research by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) released on Tuesday shared a similar outlook, expecting consumer retail spending during the period to increase significantly from 2020 levels, although still remaining 36% lower than 2019 levels.

The BMR research found that retailers like Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse stand to benefit the most from the period and possibly stand to see a R11.3 billion rise in additional November retail value this year compared to the R10.8 billion seen last year in the same period.

Massmart’s share price closed 1.4% weaker on Wednesday, at R70.92. However, the stock is up over 70% year-to-date.

Read: Retailers can expect an uptick in sales from this year’s Black Friday

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