By Bonnie Modiakgotla
The ministry of Employment, labour Productivity and Skills Development has met with Choppies management to address issues identified in labour inspections carried last year.
Tshenolo Mabeo on Monday told parliament that following violations of labour laws which were picked up during labour inspections done in 35 stores belonging to the retail giant Choppies, there will be some improvements going forward.
“My officials held meetings with Choppies Enterprises management. I have also held a meeting with the CEO of Choppies and I think going forward, we are hoping to see improvements,” Mabeo said.
Labour inspections were undertaken in some Choppies stores following growing concern about the welfare of employees, which at some point played it out publicly in March 2018 when Westgate Choppies employees embarked on a strike, citing low pay and poor working conditions. The striking workforce was later dismissed on grounds of “illegal strike”.
Two months later, the ministry of Employment, labour Productivity and Skills Development kick started a series of site visits which uncovered labour laws violations spanning noncompliance in some areas relating to overtime allowance, sick leave notes, management of contracts and severance benefits.
Parliament was told that Choppies management does not recognize sick leave notes from government health facilities, only accepting those from private healthcare providers. It was also disclosed that employees are not furnished with copies of their contracts. Mabeo revealed that the labour inspections picked that employees who joined the pension scheme were not paid their severance packages for the period prior to joining the scheme.
Following the inspection that identified violations, the minister says Choppies was advised about labour laws, and where they were found lacking, they were advised to bring their practice in line with the law.
“In a meeting held by officials of my ministry and management of Choppies on the 4th February 2019, the management assured my ministry that the defects that were identified during labour inspections have been rectified,” Mabeo said.
The minister further said section 18 of the Employment Act forbids salary deductions from employees for sales shortages, while section 18 of the same Act clearly states that employees should not work overtime without prescribed payments.
“Choppies was found not to be fully compliant with this section, particularly in regard to the rate of overtime payable during rest periods and public holidays. Upon follow up, management indicated that the correct rates for payment of overtime are now being used,” he said.
Mabeo advised management of Choppies to establish social dialogue structures in order to minimize conflicts and employees’ grievances.