Checkers worker would take 290 years to earn what her boss was paid in a month

Chief executive Whitey Basson was paid nearly R100 million

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Photo of Checkers store
The Shoprite group, of which Checkers is part, paid its chief executive R100 million in the year to June. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

It would take a worker in a Checkers deli about 290 years to earn what the chief executive of the Shoprite group, Whitey Basson, was paid in a month this year.

Basson was paid R49.7 million in basic pay and a special performance bonus of R50 million in the financial year to June. The group said he had not had a pay increase since 2013.

Phumla (not her real name), who works in the deli department at a Checkers store, earns R550 a week. At R28,600 a year, it would take her nearly 3,500 years to earn what Basson earned this year.

She works a nine hour shift. She spends R500 of her salary on rent every month and up to R320 on transport. With the rest she buys food and sends money home to her parents in the Eastern Cape.

She has just had a baby and is worried about how she will support the child.

Phumla has been working for the company since last November but she has been told that as a casual worker she will not be paid during her maternity leave.

Nosakhele (not her real name) works for House & Home, also part of the Shoprite group. She earns a basic salary of R2,700 a month, and depends on commission from sales.

“Sometimes I make only R500 commission a month depending on the month, but if I am lucky and it’s a busy month I can make more.”

“Good months are few and bad months are too many,” she says.

Nosakhele would have to work for more than 250 years to make as much as Basson did in a month.

She has two children and one of them is at university. She too works nine hour shifts.

She catches two taxis just to get to work, spending R42 daily on the return journey, or R840 a month.

“At the end of the day I am left with nothing,” she says.

Mike Tau, national chair of the S A Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union for Shoprite, said the union was opposed to executives getting big salaries while employees were paid “peanuts”.

Tau said the union was consulting members around the country about the best way to respond to the announcement of Basson’s pay package. “We cannot sit and watch while employees are being exploited,” said Tau.

Shoprite reported turnover of more than R130 billion for the year to June 2016. The group includes 577 Shoprite supermarkets and 202 Checkers supermarkets, as well as hypermarkets, and also owns Usave, OK, House & Home, Hungry Lion, MediRite and LiquorShops. It employs nearly 138,000 people.

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I agree with the workers. It is more than disgusting that one man can earn so much money, and the workers have to suffer. These big companies forget, that that if there were no workers, there would not been any companies.

They are exploiting their workers. To do a turnover of R130 billion and pay your workers R2,700 a month is pathetic. They don't have a care in the world.

Today with a family, you cannot survive on peanuts, you need at least R15,000 a month to survive. One man does not make a business. A quote from Richard Brandson: "Your staff are more important than clients, because if you look after your staff, they will look after your clients."

Dear Editor

We as customers have to ask ourselves "are we robbed"? Are we paying abnormally high prices and that's one of the reason why they have such a big salaries and bonuses? Maybe we should all come together and boycott them.

Dear Editor

If you don't like what someone is paying you, go start your own business. it's very simple. Or get yourself a management qualification and be paid more.

Dear Editor

Sounds like Phumla and Nosakhele need to find themselves better jobs. "Vote with their feet", so to speak, and maybe Basson will stop drawing so much salary, and pay his workers more if he wants to stay in business.

Boycotting Shoprite won't help because then poor Nosakhele will make even LESS commission.

So yeah, that's the only option I can see. You can't artificially cap Basson's salary, or otherwise force him to take a lower one: that would constitute government meddling in private business, and that would have very, VERY bad results. Besides, that probably wouldn't work either - he'd probably find a way to take money "under the table", to make up what he was earning before he was capped.

I love the quote from Richard Branson, that one of the readers submitted in their response to the article: "Your staff are more important than clients, because if you look after your staff, they will look after your clients."

Executives need to start realising that, but so do employees. If you're not happy in your job (or with your salary), and you can't negotiate, leave and go somewhere else.

Dear Editor

My mother works at Checkers and has been there for just over 10 years and still takes home R2800.

The employees don’t even get good benefits or discounts as other retailers give.

They were the first to introduce 08H00- 20H00 working hours even on a Sunday.

They have an employee shopping card, where all the money gets taken off from your salary. Many times my mother has taken home less than her normal take home, as she has to shop for basic food needed in the house.

Dear Editor

So what? It is a private institution. Whitey Basson isn't holding a gun to anyone's head. He is running a private institution whose leaders declared that he receives that remuneration. People can whine about it all they want, but it's the business of Shoprite what they pay their employees and executives.

What you should be focusing on is liberalising the labour market so that Shoprite employees can more adequately compete for better salaries. And better yet, the unemployed can get a chance.

Dear Editor

R100 million payment for reaching profit gains is acceptable. Bassoon has surpassed his fiscal obligations and actually guaranteed workers' jobs for the following year.

Workers of Shoprite are privileged to have such a high performing leader.

Dear Editor

There is no justice in South Africa. Having to work 12 hours a day and still receive peanuts (R2800, that's a flat rent). Basson's salary is way too much for the work done.

Dear Editor

When seeing this gross insult to the poorest of the poor it is clear slavery (exploitation of the disadvantaged masses) has not changed in essence but only from one phase into another like water changing from liquid into ice or steam, it remains water.

What manner of righteousness entered the mind of the board when they decided to give Whitey Basson this salary? Truly the attitude of "we don't care about the poor masses" is pervasive in this board room. What they are doing is setting the scene and stoking the fires of a massive civil uprising. We must not forget that the injustices of the past from when the first settler came to South Africa is entrenched in this country. The TRC, land reform etc have only benefitted the ruling class and their cohorts and not the masses of this country. You can fool most of the people most of the time but not all of the people all of the time. The UDF aligned lecturers and intellectuals have conscientised the students and have put things in perspective that their demands are reasonable given the level of exploitation of the past and still occurring today, e.g. Basson's salary. Obviously the money Checkers has to give Whitey was gained on the backs of the more than 130,000 workers. This is nothing but exploitation and an insult in a country of extreme poverty. This is economic "Izikhothane " rubbing it in the faces of the poor masses.

No one says he must not get a salary commensurate to his level and contribution in the company. But is his salary fair and justified given the economic and social conditions in South Africa? The poor masses are reading this and they see it as another attack on their future because as long as the few get a lot, the majority will get a lot less. As long as there is life their must be hope but any hope for a better life is being taken away day by day when the poor majority see this gross and clear exploitation but also an insult to the dignity of the poor who sacrifice so much in selling their labour for so little in return. An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.

Dear Editor

How can you compare the salary of the CEO of a company this size, to that of an employee who probably hasn't even got a proper education? If you've ever been to a Checkers deli section, you'll find that the people behind the counter would usually rather sit and chit chat about whatever the latest gossip is, instead of helping the clients, yet they are the first people to complain about small salaries. If you want a bigger salary, get an education, and move out of that position. They're going to be replaced by robots in the future anyway, so if they have any kind of foresight they'd start making a plan now, but they won't. They'll just sit and bitch about it, and blame someone else for their inadequacies. Pathetic to say the least.

Dear Editor

After reading all the letters and comments, I just wonder what Mr Basson does with his money. I am sure he also has expenses and can afford the best, but then there must be a whole lot to spare.

I just wonder how much he gives to charity and his faithful workers. Maybe he can start (or has already done so) an organisation helping the needy working in his company. If he could do that, surely people will not be so angry about the situation.

Dear Editor

I am not against large salaries for key leaders that help to grow and deliver profits for its investors. What I am against is that they cannot see the value of someone travelling an hour to come to work, working a long shift then commuting for an hour to get home. That a large chunk of their money goes toward just getting to work.

Something is very wrong with this set up. Individuals are loyal to these companies, they carry out the roles they were employed for, all they are asking is a fair living wage, surely in that millions of profits they can find a wage above R2900, who in the world can live on that? I would have thought R8500 would be at least fair.

I for one will NOT be buying my groceries for a company that does not share their profits with their employees.

You just lost a customer Checkers!

Dear Editor

The fundamental of any successful leader should be to love people and use money. Not the other way around.

Businesses need visionary leaders with courage and perseverance to build a sustainable future for all stakeholders. Please give the leaders their dues who have achieved it! There is nothing wrong with money. It gives one options to do things and opportunities to help others.

In this case, Shoprite's leaders have done it. They have created a business employing more than 130000 people and are paying them, training them, offering career paths and growing the business for all stakeholders including their employees and families.

The media always need sensation. There will always be bosses and workers. But it is a choice and privilege to be employed. Not a demand thing! Not a grievance thing or a strike thing! It is a free will contract between an employer and an employee.

The saying that "people stop looking for work once they get a job " becomes a reality in many instances.

Transparency on leaders salaries should inspire people, giving them hope of future achievements, making them proud to have leaders with integrity and courage.

Whitey Basson showed the true colours of an extraordinary leader!

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