The looming Industrial Action Walmart South Africa and all its Subsidiaries and Brands

 Now that SACCAWU has exhausted all efforts intended to convince Massmart leadership to halt their intentions to bring/import the chosen labour regime of Walmart and related Union-Free Philosophy into all her South African subsidiaries, changes resembling the brutality against workers; the Union is engaging with all members across South Africa and in all brands of Massmart and her subsidiaries for a remedial action under the circumstances, including Industrial Action; if needs be. 

 All Forums (High-Level Leadership Joint Bilateral Forum and SteerCo) that were established to facilitate mutual harmony and developmental agenda for beneficiation of both workers and the business, had been undermined by acts of pretence and subtle contempt; whilst arbitrarily and simply but continuously behaving like there is no consultation processes that are underway and aimed at, in ensuring that, there are efforts to minimize the impact of job-losses.

SACCAWU follow-through on the Union’s observation elongated her memory-lane as far back as 2009 and 2010, as we warned then that, if the global giant retailer that is Walmart succeeded in its bid buy a 51% share ownership of Massmart, it would mean stifling of competition, job losses for the retail and manufacturing sectors. We, at the time, further declared through our Deputy General Secretary that: “Few people comprehend the immensity of the implications of this deal if it goes through unopposed and without stringent conditions to protect our sector, related sectors, the local economy in general, the country and continent’s developmental agenda. (Mail & Guardian – 04/11/2010)

 The current shape and form of the Walmart-Massmart Group labour regime and its actions now confirm the agenda of what was then viewed to be an example to be followed as and when the country engages on Foreign Direct Investments, as we weigh options on the terms that ought to be employed in our research for better models of economic stimulation measures that favourable to our country’s development imperatives.

  • They (Walmart), as part of conditions said; “ Wal-Mart repeatedly indicated that it will honour pre-existing union relationship and abide by South African Labour Law, an approach that is consistent with its practice in other countries within which it has operations,” Massmart said. It was said then by the International labour unions, including UNI Global Union and UFCW amongst others, that Walmart’s biggest operation in the US, the country of origin and Head Quarters, has over the years thwarted any unionisation by the US Commerce Union, UFCW through Union Bashing Philosophy (“Union-Free” Toolkit).  Today we are frequently and endlessly seeking adjudication of the CCMA and soon we may land in Courts contesting the violation of existing recognition/relationship agreement(s), the basic spirit and intent of Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 as amended; in particular Section 189, and related legal processes to be followed, framed with observation of the principles of job security and job creation in accordance with the country’s current developmental imperatives or agenda and the current Economy Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

Preceding and throughout endurance of this onslaught and unilateralism, SACCAWU like any member of the Public first learnt of this workplace/work reorganisation from the media statements attributed to Mitch Slape; the CEO recently deployed from the US Walmart Head Quarters, probable to deal with and/or fix the South African / African Walmart businesses.

 He started by pronouncing on what he termed consolidation of the entire Group brands and operations into two divisions: being Wholesale and Retail, respectively.

 Whilst in the process of challenging this contemptuous foreign tendency; we further learnt from the media that thirty-four (34) stores concerning Dion Wired and Masscash or so were to be closed affecting thousands of jobs which was immediately followed by hastily issuing of erroneous or backdated section 189 notice.

 When we thought progress was being made in dealing with that, another section 189 concerning Game/Massdiscounters stores followed suit; purely informed by management egos to allegedly remodel the stores but negatively affecting workers; as the so-called new model’s intention has to do with curtailing the so-called non-core and trimming head counts – the mean and lean philosophy disguised as bringing in efficiencies.

 And that was a final straw as the strategy became so evidently intended to overstretch the union on piece-meal engagements when the decision is centralised and to ultimately go through all brands, with same culminating into declaration of the current central dispute across the Group.

 SACCAWU at its  National Strategic meeting of 16th March 2021, resolved amongst other array of challenges within Massmart Group to issue this statement to serve firstly as means to expose the malfeasances, anti-unionism and union bashing offensive imported from the country of origin (USA) and aggressively being unleashed against workers and their Union by Walmart-Massmart; vindicating our position and submissions at the advent of their/its entering the RSA market coupled with intention of using same as a gate-way to the African Continent.

 Massmart strategy, which is fraught with anti/hostile competition traits, bullying, domination and inherent tendencies, that began with acquisition of Massmart and immediately followed by all relevant small retail operators in order to curtail their competitive edge, hollow them out, discard them and consolidate, for amassing of the big market share and dominance. 

All these are riddled with evident jobs bloodbath and/or massive jobs-shedding from store closures of the acquired entities and the now monotonous but constant Capitalist excuse of operational requirements and non-core imperatives informed in the main by super exploitation and profits maximisation; at the expense and to the detriment of the toiling masses/workers.

 Walmart-Massmart has as well opportunistically taken mileage of Covid-19 outbreak and its related predicaments despite all retailers were afforded space to operate, allegedly as essential services to intensify its offensive onslaught; which started by closing Dion-Wired and sale of Masscash affecting 34 Stores also meant for closure affecting many workers negatively; coupled and fraught with massive jobs shedding, across brands, transfers with downward variations and unilateral changes to working conditions, expressing itself as punitive to those not retrenched with a burdensome overworking, multi-tasking and aggressive intimidation whilst fiercely attempting to render the Union as useless in the eyes of the hopelessly vulnerable and destitute workforce. 

 After the National Strategic meeting, we are convinced that, now is the time for our members to fight the erosion of their gains and defend their jobs; thus bite the bullet, take action and deal with this monster driven by greed and private accumulation tendencies at the expense of workers’ labour and sweat.  We are approaching the final stages of readiness, with the obtained data from our Regions suggesting that the anger on the ground is on the rise, with our Leadership and Structures now consolidating mandates for what is to be done and/or possible industrial action and taking the fight to the employer/aggressor. 

The general trend which seems prevalent amongst our members reporting back from meetings, involves mandate to leadership to engage CCMA urgently on all disputed company actions, whose outcomes we would analyse and prepare members for execution of whatever resolved to and popular/majority overwhelming mandated action.

Issued by SACCAWU Secretariat

Bones Sikhulu      Mike Michael Bonile Sikani    &         Lucas Ramatlhodi

082 336 5015         0823368296                                       082 336 5325