Black Friday contingency plans for Massmart as strike looms

A Makro store. Image: Massmart Holdings

Massmart, which owns Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse, has assured customers that planned strike action by the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) will not interfere with their Black Friday shopping plans.

“Massmart has implemented the necessary strike contingency plans including the deployment of Massmart experienced temporary employees who are familiar with our processes to ensure the continued smooth operation of our stores,” the group said in a statement.

Saccawu, which is affiliated with Cosatu, has made clear its intentions of embarking on an indefinite strike at 229 Massmart stores across the country on Friday.

The union’s planned strike action – which is anticipated to draw 18 000 workers across the country – relates to wage and labour disputes it has with Walmart majority-owned Massmart.

Saccawu spokesman Sithembele Tshwete said the union has three issues with Massmart:

  • It is disputing the reduction of working hours for Massmart group employees from 195 hours to 120 hours a month;
  • It is demanding a R500 wage increase across the board from MassBuild. Massmart has placed a R320 increase, or alternatively a 4.1% increase, on the table, both of which the union has rejected; and
  • It has an employment dispute with MassDiscounters – which includes the Game brand – relating to changes to the terms of employment. Saccawu says workers in this segment, who are commission earners, are being set “unreasonably high targets”.

Tshwete says the union has exhausted all efforts to engage with the Walmart-led retailer and resuming strike action on Friday is the only way to voice its grievances.

Massmart has questioned the union’s intentions in embarking on the strike action, further accusing it of threatening members who are reluctant to strike, even though participating may chip away at their income.

Tshwete disputes the claims, describing these as a smear campaign by Massmart to discredit Saccawu. The union says workers understand the financial sacrifice they are making in joining the strike.

The strike action, especially during the Black Friday promotional month, threatens to halt Massmart’s recovery plans

“That’s the whole point of a strike: You make sacrifices. It’s the ‘no work no pay’ principle that applies and workers go on strike conscious of that,” says Tshwete.

The strike action, especially during the Black Friday promotional month, threatens to halt Massmart’s recovery plans which were well under way.

On Monday, BankservAfrica released its recent point-of-sale and ATM data, which revealed that consumer spend in the 2021 Black Friday period is expected to be higher than the 2020 period.

Research by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) released on Tuesday shared a similar outlook, expecting consumer retail spending during the period to increase significantly from 2020 levels, although still remaining 36% lower than 2019 levels.

The BMR research found that retailers like Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse stand to benefit the most from the period and possibly stand to see an R11.3-billion rise in additional November retail value this year compared to the R10.8-billion seen last year in the same period.

Massmart’s share price closed 1.4% weaker on Wednesday, at R70.92. However, the stock is up over 70% year-to-date.

  • This article was originally published on Moneyweb and is used by TechCentral with permission