Namibia’s government backs calls to boycott Shoprite as wage stand-off prolongs

Namibia’s government has thrown its weight behind growing calls to boycott Shoprite Holdings so that the company resolves a four-week strike over pay.

The Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFU) has been pleading with consumers not to buy from Shoprite and its subsidiaries until the labor dispute is resolved.

More than 2,000 Shoprite workers have been on strike since December 23 demanding better salaries and working conditions.

They are demanding for a $40.34 salary increase, a $30.30 housing allowance, a $33.56 transport allowance, and permanent employment for temporary workers who have been with the retailer for over a year.

Labor Minister Utoni Nujoma said in a statement, “The ministry supports this position.”

A 2019 Labor Force Survey report revealed that full time workers at Africa’s largest grocery earn between $134.23 and $167.79 per month compared with a sector average of $279.80.

Most striking employees are currently on temporary contracts, some for extended periods of up to more than 10 years and earning between $20.13 and $26.85 per week.

According to NAFU, Shoprite is refusing to concede to the workers’ demands and has stuck to its initial proposal of a 5% to 10% salary increase without benefits.

Nujoma said the salaries are low and “consign workers to a life of deprivation for themselves and their families.”

He condemned Shoprite’s history of labor practices and criticised the retailer for its handling of the ongoing strike.

The minister said it is now clear that the retail chain is negotiating “in bad faith” after it defied a recent court ruling that interdicts Shoprite from hiring seasonal staff or “fixed term” employees while full-time workers are on strike.

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