Andrew Kathindi

Shoprite and Checkers employees currently on strike due to low pay and poor working conditions say they have lost confidence in Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), the union representing their case against their employer in court.

This comes after Nafau Secretary General Jacob Penda announced that a meeting with Shoprite management yesterday (Thursday), which was intended to reach an agreement over the matter, ended in a stalemate and yielded no results.

Employees were disgruntled with Penda, accusing the union boss of stalling a demonstration by Affirmative Repositioning (AR), which was intended to shut down several Shoprite stores in Windhoek, which Penda denied.

“We did not stop anyone from shutting down the stores, they can go ahead but what we are saying is that they cannot do it in the name of Nafau and we do not want the employees to be the ones shutting down the stores as then they will be in violation of the terms,” the Nafau SG argued.

He added, “You cannot correct a mistake with a mistake as the two of you will both end up in trouble. We want to do the right for you as the workers.”

Employees of the retail giant however did not accept Penda’s reasoning. They insisted that Shoprite was violating the terms of the court order, which prohibits the food market giant from employing seasonal workers to take over the duties of those who are on strike.

“Our legal team is busy preparing documents for the courts. This is so that Shoprite can be held in contempt of the court. Then the order can be enforced and taken to the Inspector General of the Namibian Police,” said Penda.

Employees were however not impressed. Several accused the union boss of accepting a bribe during Thursday’s meeting with Shoprite management. Penda denied this. They presented no evidence for their accusation.

“If Nafau is not going to do anything then they must remove me from [their] registry as a member and stop deducting a fee from [my salary],” one employee who chose not to be named said.

“We have been on strike since the 23rd of December without pay, this matter is taking too long. How are some of us going to pay rent at the end of the month? Nafau has done nothing,” another said.

“We are not satisfied because what we have seen now is as if Nafau is part of the company (Shoprite). They didn’t even talk about one of our demands,” Amutenya Johannes, a frustrated employee of Checkers told the Windhoek Observer.

He added, “Our confidence in Nafau is not strong. They were supposed to let AR close the shops. When we go on strike while the shop is operating, [settlement] can take two months, but if the shops were shut down, it could have been solved in a day.”

Shoprite has filed an appeal against the court order that prohibits the retail company from hiring temporary employees to do the work of those on strike.