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Strike pending as Makro wage talks collapse

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FIFI PETERS: Shifting away from Eskom matters and just looking at the potential upcoming strike of solidarity that could be hitting Massmart stores, some of the portfolio of its stores, as of tomorrow [Thursday, 15 December].

In fact, those of you who were planning to visit either Game or the food shop, or Rhino or Builders Warehouse – and even Jumbo for that matter – should be aware that perhaps there could be a bit more activity around those shops than you are otherwise used to, because of the scheduled strike that could be going ahead, being organised by the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union [Saccawu], which said it planned to hold a solidarity strike tomorrow after talks at the CCMA of the pay for Makro workers didn’t quite go its way.

We’ve got Mike Tau, the second deputy president at Saccawu on the line for more details. Mike, thanks so much for your time. Tell us what could happen tomorrow, and why.

MIKE TAU: [You may] remember that there’s been a prolonged dispute with Makro, which is owned by Walmart. We started with [a demand] for 12% or R800, whichever is the greater, and then some other demands on the table. But the main focus recently was on the wage increase.

Last week we received a letter from the CCMA on Section 150 to try and make some interventions, as first the company was not interested in coming. Then we decided [to] serve them with the strike notice, 48 hours’ notice, for tomorrow, and we extended the strike in terms of the law to a secondary strike by another subsidiary company of Walmart.

When we went to the CCMA, we revised our position from 8% to 7.5% and R630, whichever works out the greater, and the company requested that we should give them until yesterday [at] one o’clock. Yesterday [at] o’clock parties met at the CCMA and the company decided again that they needed to meet their executive, and they requested that we should meet again on December 19.

But unfortunately this morning when we woke up we realised that they [had] communicated another propaganda machinery, by saying they’ve been engaging with Saccawu and they believe that the union is not interested in resolving this dispute.

Then we resuscitated our strike notice which was sent to the company last week, and we decided that we’d go on with a one-day industrial action tomorrow, and here in Gauteng there’ll be a march going to Makro [and] we’d meet. And then in other provinces as well there will be some march [or] demonstration.

FIFI PETERS: Okay, Mike, let’s actually hear from the company.

Let’s get their side of the story. We do have a voice note that was sent by Brian Lerone – he is the senior vice president for group corporate affairs at Massmart. Let’s listen in.

BRIAN LERONE: ‘From the outset the union have been reluctant participants in the dispute settlement process at the CCMA, and really they took the earliest opportunity to walk out of talks. It’s clear that Saccawu does not want to settle this wage dispute, and so we have closed the 2022 wage-negotiation process. We have become pretty good at implementing strike backup plans, and these have now been activated at our affected stores.’

FIFI PETERS: Mike, what do you think about that and the statement the company is making that it’s clear that Saccawu doesn’t want to end this wage dispute.

MIKE TAU: Let me put this through to you, that when the CCMA called us for a Section 150, then we accepted the Section 150. Then we arrived at the CCMA, then we put a proposal to management. Then management said we must give them up until the [13th], which was yesterday, up until 13:00, around one o’clock. We accepted, we gave them the time. And then, when they arrived at the CCMA, they went and caucused for a long time. Coming back they said they were meeting their executive because they didn’t understand our previous position properly.

We explained the position properly. And then after [our] explaining the position properly, they requested that we should give them up until next Wednesday because the executive is meeting on Wednesday. Now we are surprised to hear that Saccawu is not interested in resolving this dispute.

We are putting the blame on the company because it is they who said we must give them the time – twice. And while we still had our national executive committee today, when we [were] in the national executive committee, they don’t even communicate to us. They communicated to members on the ground and they [said] to members according to them the strike is over – I mean, the negotiations for 2022 are closed. Therefore there will be no [further] room for negotiations.

We believe that they are negotiating in bad faith because we agreed and accepted. The party met in front of the CCMA Commissioner … and he advised us that if we want to settle when the company requests some time to go and meet their principals, likewise I would request that. We allowed them to do that. And again, to make sure that we wanted to resolve this dispute we suspended our strike. We wrote a letter to the company and said the strike is suspended.

But after seeing their tactics yesterday and this morning, we decided that we needed to resuscitate that 48 hours’ notice.

FIFI PETERS: Okay. The company does say they’ve got measures in place. They are anticipating the strikes. I just want to know – after the one-day solidarity strike tomorrow, Mike, what next?

MIKE TAU: We’ll go out on strike tomorrow and our members will go back to work as usual on Saturday. And we will on Monday again meet and assess the strike and decide on the way forward again on Monday.

FIFI PETERS: Okay. We’ll be looking out for those developments, sir. Thanks so much for taking the time to give us that information. Mike Tau is the second deputy president of Saccawu.

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