Sunday, February 28, 2021

Labor office intervenes and Supreme Furnitures workers dispute intensifies

The Department of Labor is set to arbitrate in a dispute between Botswana Wholesalers Furniture and Retail Workers Union and management of Supreme Furnitures, over the intended retrenchment of some of the company’s employees.

The matter was referred for arbitration after the Union raised objections against the retrenchment, saying it was not procedural because the employer, Supreme Furnishers, failed to notify its members at the appropriate time.  In a letter written to the Group’s employee relations manager Rosita Botha, which Sunday Standard has a copy of, the National Organizing Secretary of the Union, Quanch Kewagamang notes that an agreement was reached on the 24th of June 2015 that employees would be notified about the looming retrenchment on 1st July 2015. However, said the Union, management did not notify the employees on the agreed date as it only did so a month later on the 23rd of July 2015, through a letter back dated to 24th June 2015. The Union argues that this was unprocedural and unlawful as the 60 day notification period must start from the date on which employees were given the notification letters.

The said letter was written after the two parties reached a deadlock on the procedure to be followed during retrenchment. The management of Supreme Furnitures  wants to interview Administration Clerks to determine whether they qualify for what they insist will be new posts, while the Union insists that the  posts will not be new but will only have added duties, such that there is no need for interviews.

The Union also argues that when retrenching the known procedure of Last in First out (LIFO) should apply across the board in regard to Stock Clerks or Sales Persons. Two months back, Supreme Furnitures made its intention known to the Union that it was left with no alternative but to retrench because its target market has been severely impacted by the current credit crunch, which compelled the company to adjust its trading formula in order to ensure the immediate survival of the chain and create a sustainable business into the future. Supreme, whose head quarters are in South Africa, employs close to 200 Batswana in its retail shops across the country. 

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