South Africa’s biggest union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is expected to descend on Gaborone sometime this year on a fact finding mission aimed at among others investigating Choppies chain stores, the union’s North West Provincial Secretary Solly Phetoe said on Monday.
This follows reports that the union has declared war on Choppies store in the North West Province in South Africa after almost all the workers in the region were on Friday and Saturday were suspended and some dismissed for allegations based on evidence from cameras.
“We are prepared to meet unions in Botswana soon because we are not sure if the workers there are treated well. We intend to meet with some unions in Botswana on a fact finding mission,” Phetoe told The Telegraph in a telephone interview on Monday.
He said on Saturday they held a meeting with the Human Resource Manager in South Africa, one Lebo to discuss what he termed unfair labour practices by the chain store.
“As we speak some workers in North West Province are still on strike. Majority of workers are ill treated and that is why we also intend to extend our mission to Botswana to establish if workers there are not treated badly,” said Phetoe.
Contacted for comment, the Chief Executive Officer of Choppies, Ram Ottapath on Monday said they meet representatives from COSATU “from time to time.”
“We have regular meetings with COSATU leaders. They keep on meeting us. We don’t have a problem with that and it is not something new. But as to the issue you have raised, we do not have anything on the table to discuss with the union or that needs to be sorted out,” he said.
In a statement passed to The Telegraph, COSATU says both the shops in the Delareyville and Mafikeng dismissed workers and employed “casuals and some workers from the other shops to do the work.”
The union said workers embarked on industrial action, demanding that those workers dismissed unfairly must be reinstated and those who are illegally suspended must all return to work.
“With the interventions of the COSATU leadership in Mafikeng and with the help of a COSATU official the workers are back at work and no-one will be charged before there is an engagement with the union and the federation.” said COSATU.
COSATU added that “the federation is calling an urgent meeting with the senior management and all the directors of the store to discuss how workers are exploited. We want that meeting to take place before the end of this week or we will be calling a massive boycott of all the Choppies stores in the NW Province.”
According to COSATU, “We will be doing that because this is not for the first time that we will engage the senior management from Botswana regarding the exploitation of workers, racial attitudes and assaulting workers by management. At the Hartswater store a poor women worker was assaulted and the manager was not dismissed until COSATU intervened.”
The union is also calling on Department of Labour inspectors to do inspections of all stores in the North West “as we can see that they do what they think is right for them.”
“We are aware that their current HR manager is a former CCMA interpreter who allegedly always threatens and intimidates workers and has a good relationship with CCMA commissioners. We can confirm that when other workers were dismissed unfairly the CCMA told them that they had no case. That was done because those workers had no union at that time. The federation intervened and all workers were reinstated,” said COSATU.
COSATU urged “workers to stand up and join a proper recognised and registered union and to report all exploitation to the unions or to the federation. We are about to call mass boycott and a massive campaign against the Choppies store in the North West.”