HIGH Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele today reserved judgment in a matter in which Shoprite, Checkers, and USave employees are seeking an interdict to stop the recruitment of 390 temporary employees, in the absence of 2042 employees currently on strike.
Court documents show that an estimated 421 employees have in the meantime ceased to participate in the strike and have returned to work.
Judge Ueitele will deliver a ruling in this regard on Friday, 8 January 2020 at 15h00.
The national strike is aimed at increasing salaries and a better working environment. An urgent application was brought to court by the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union.
The Shoprite group recruited temporary workers in December 2020, a move they say is common during the peak season of December due to Christmas and back to school promotions.
The strike commenced on 23 December 2020, following unresolved negotiations in September 2020. Negotiations, according to court documents had begun in June last year.
According to NAFAU, Shoprite, by employing the ‘Fixed-term employees’ is acting in breach of Rule 9 of the Strike and Lockout Rules signed by the parties on 7 December 2020, thereby acting in contravention of section 76(3) of the Labour Act 11 of 2007.
The rule prevents employers to allow non-striking employees from performing any duties or work of the legally striking employees.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the ‘fixed term’ employees are presently performing the work of the striking employees. This was revealed by a joint inspection of four Shoprite shops in Windhoek, which was conducted on 29 December 2020 in the presence of the Conciliator,” NAFAU Deputy General Secretary Absalom Wihelma said.
Shoprite, through their legal representatives, argues that the practice forms part of its long-standing business practice during the Christmas holiday season because of the high demand.
According to NAFAU, an investigation revealed that the temporary employees are deployed in departments severely affected by the strike, such as cashiers, shelf packers, and bakeries.
“The majority of temporary employees were deployed at the Checkers Grove mall, Shoprite Independence Avenue, Maerua Mall, and Katutura Shoprite, where a high number of striking employees are based,” Wihelma said.
Karen Smith, the Divisional Human Resources Manager at Shoprite Namibia argued that Shoprite has been employing temporary employees during the Festive Season as well as other peak seasons such as Easter weekends since 2010. In Shoprite’s defense, Smith further argues that the group wasn’t aware that the union would engage in a strike as of 7 December 2020 and by 3 to 14 December 2020, 270 people had already been temporarily employed.
According to her, many already began work between 7 December 2020 and some were scheduled to start work on 23 December 2020, the day of the strike.
“Shoprite was merely responding to its operational needs during the festive season as is standard practice, as well as ameliorating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operation. NAFAU’s deduction of the purpose of recruitment is unsubstantiated and premised on self – serving subjective inferences which are not credible,” Smith argued in her affidavit.