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Union: Woolworths plans retrenchments

Sep 06 2012 18:35

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Johannesburg – Woolworths Holdings [JSE:WHL] is planning to retrench almost 180 workers despite its earlier claims to the contrary, the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) said on Thursday.

"Hardly a week after vehement denials by Woolworths' spokespersons to the media that they do not intend retrenching workers, we are now informed of the planned retrenchments of about 177 workers," the union's Thabo Mahlangu said in a statement.

Last week, the retailer denied planning to retrench 600 workers. It said it was merely seeking to transfer about 3% of its staff on old contracts to a new system requiring them to work weekends.

If staff did not want to work under the new contract, they could leave with a voluntary severance payment, or take early retirement if they qualified.

Saccawu said this was to the detriment of workers' rights.

"It is a clear union-bashing tactic in that once the company concludes the exercise, they will have no full-time workers and thus be able to manipulate workers against the union... through a regime of fear."

Mahlangu said those affected were mainly from the lower echelons of the work force. The union predicted that management would try to "coerce" employees to accept the new contracts by meeting them individually, in an attempt to exclude the union from the process.

"Obviously the power relations are skewed in favour of managers and there is no way workers can stand their ground in... a junta reminiscent of a kangaroo court."

The Woolworths media desk could not immediately comment on Saccawu's claims.

Earlier this week trade union Solidarity started a campaign to get the company to retract job advertisements it believed discriminated against whites.

Deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said on Wednesday: "In the media, Woolworths argues that they are only complying with affirmative action laws. However, the truth is that the Employment Equity Act does not allow such exclusions."

Solidarity's campaign: "Woolworse: Making a differentiation", would be driven by social media and include protest messages to Woolworths CEO Ian Moir.

Woolworths' operations officer Sam Ngumeni denied the company was using racist recruitment processes.

"In order to meet our transformation commitments we use various mechanisms, such as designation, to deliver on our employment equity plan, which is in line with the Employment Equity Act," he said.
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