It appears the largest retailer on the continent, Shoprite is at the centre of it all. Although, at the time of this report, Shoprite had failed to comment, over 800 outsourced workers at the Centurion Facility owned by the retailer, decided to protest being outsourced. The workers are rejecting the idea of being employed by labour brokers, who end up paying them ‘poverty wages’ and are seeking an end to the servitude.
These outsourced workers are currently paid R23 per hour in a 44-hour week. However, they are now requesting a minimum wage of R10,000.
The workers are not letting up as they have built on the #OutsourcingMustFall movement. Clarence Debeila, a union official who spoke about the strike, says there was no going back. “The strike is definitely still on. Almost all the staff have joined us. We have sent memorandums to management, asking for better wages, but those have fallen on deaf ears. The workers here won’t stop until they are heard,” he said.
This is definitely bad for business as Business Day Live reports that by Wednesday, just two days after the strike began, Shoprite’s share price had dropped by 2.82 percent to R168.12.
The first quarter of 2016 in South Africa has experienced a few protests by outsourced workers. In January 2016, outsourced workers at colleges and universities in Pretoria and Tshwane initiated a shutdown of more than twenty campuses within the municipalities so as to protest against unfair wages, this occurred the same time as the #FeesMustFall movement. Their demands however, extended beyond fair wages for their work and included;
- Immediate permanent employment
- R10,000 p/m minimum wage and full benefits
- Opposition to any retrenchments and the permanent employment of all recently retrenched workers.
A 2014 report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism in South Africa revealed that the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Western Cape alone is worth R8 billion. But, if several outsourced workers are constantly crying foul over the wages they earn, why are companies and establishments still outsourcing in South Africa? More specifically, does Shoprite understand its vulnerability in this case and just chooses to remain silent?
According to Workers International Vanguard League; ‘outsourcing by capitalists divides workers to increase exploitation. In all cases where workers have been outsourced, working conditions have deteriorated; workers have been largely stripped of pension and other benefits won through long years of struggle. These are the concrete, violent, yet unreported, conditions that these outsourced workers suffer’. It seems Shoprite has a long fight ahead of it.