Covid-19: Massmart workers told to “self-isolate” after protests

Workers are demanding answers over job losses and changes to employment conditions

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Hundreds of Massmart workers affiliated to the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) marched to the company’s head office in Johannesburg on Friday. Photo: Julia Evans

  • Massmart wants workers who participated in mass protests across the country last week to self-isolate for seven days due to Covid-19 concerns.
  • The protests, led by the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, are over possible job losses and changes to employment conditions, among other things.
  • The union has given the company until Friday to respond to their demands.

Massmart has told workers who participated in protests across the country to self-isolate for seven days due to Covid-19 concerns.

The protests were triggered by store closures and retrenchments at Massmart (which owns Game, Makro, Jumbo and Builders Warehouse). In Johannesburg, hundreds of workers affiliated to the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) marched to the Massmart head office on Friday.

SACCAWU, representing the workers, handed over a memorandum of demands and gave the company until Friday to respond. The memo demands that Massmart restore employment conditions that existed before the company’s restructuring and commit to including the union in future dialogues and negotiations, among other things.

Massmart’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs, Brian Leroni, said workers had been told to isolate for seven days from 29 May where store managers “had clear evidence” that they had participated in a march or had not followed Covid-19 guidance during protests. This would be treated as paid annual leave, he said.

“Our greatest concern during the industrial action was the insufficiency of sensible social distancing and Covid-19 preventative measures by participating employees. For example, at the most basic level the application of government mandated measures, such as wearing face masks and maintaining safe social distance.

“It should be noted that the picketing guidelines provided by the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] specifically required that appropriate health and safety guidelines should be applied.”

“There were… stores where preventative measures were followed by employees and where all those employees were able to return to work without the need for isolation.”

Leroni said, “The action we have taken is by no means unusual or atypical. It is in fact a recommended routine C19 preventative measure.”

The union is disputing changes to working hours and retrenchments.

Mike Sikani, national coordinator of SACCAWU, said 130 jobs at DionWired stores were at risk and 1,800 jobs at Game stores nationally.

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TOPICS:  Labour Labour unions

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