Ackerman blasts racism charge

2009-12-17 09:47

Johannesburg - Pick n Pay chairperson Raymond Ackerman is "outraged" at what he called the "appalling accusation" by the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) of racism in the company.

In a statement on Thursday, Ackerman said Pick n Pay's history over 43 years spoke for itself.

"Both the company and I suffered significant abuse at the hands of former politicians for our stand on human rights for black South Africans.

"We were harassed for our decision to violate the Job Reservation Act and promote black South Africans to positions they had earned in Pick n Pay," he said.

Last week Saccawu members at Pick n Pay embarked on a one-day strike, accusing the company's CEO Nick Badminton of racism.

"They have provided no evidence to their blanket accusations."

"They have made vague references to a comment that was allegedly made by our CEO, according to them over a decade ago," Ackerman said.

He added that Saccawu had not explained why it had taken 10 years to raise the complaint.

"Our CEO, Nick Badminton, has stated clearly and without any hesitation whatsoever that he said no such thing. "In short, it's utter nonsense."

As to Saccawu's other allegations, when the union raised a list of unspecific issues with Pick n Pay, it offered to create a commission of enquiry - "not once but four separate times", Ackerman said.

"They rejected this offer each time. We have done our part and offered to try and resolve whatever problems they said they were having."

"In rejecting our offer, they clearly have no real interest in resolving this and this is borne out by comments made by the union."

He said during last week's strike Saccawu had handed a memorandum to the company's human resources director, Isaac Motaung, "who ironically started his career at Pick n Pay as a trolley porter".

Ackerman acknowledged that Pick n Pay was not "perfect".

"We have over 39 000 employees. There are going to be times when someone, somewhere, behaves less than perfectly."

"We accept this and of course rectify whatever requires attention immediately it is brought to our attention and the proper procedures are followed in accordance with the law."

He said that over the years Pick n Pay had worked hard to earn not only the respect of its customers but also the respect of its employees.

"We are not simply going to accept what the union has done," he added.

Ackerman said he was entering his last three months as Pick n Pay chairperson.

"We have in the past and will continue to work diligently against any form of racism. But we will not tolerate this abuse and deliberate action on their [Saccawu's] part to damage our reputation and weaken our resolve."

Saccawu could not be immediately reached for comment.

- Sapa