Union takes Makro to CCMA for firing 379 workers who participated in an illegal strike | Business


Makro employees picketing at Makro Woodmead on October 26, 2022.

Makro employees picketing at Makro Woodmead on October 26, 2022.

Gallo Images/Lubabalo Lesolle

  • Makro has dismissed 379 workers for blocking customers from its stores, and other unlawful behaviour, during the Black Friday weekend.
  • Armed with video footage and photos, it charged them on 15 December and put them through a disciplinary process.
  • An independent chairperson ruled on 23 February that the company should dismiss them, but trade union Saccawu is challenging that decision at the CCMA.
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

The South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) has taken Makro to the CCMA over the dismissal of 379 workers. The retail giant’s disciplinary processes found them guilty of participating in an illegal strike.

The Massmart-owned retailer dismissed 379 employees at the end of February. This followed a three-month-long disciplinary investigation Makro embarked on after pickets in its stores on Black Friday weekend. The pickets affected Makro Germiston, Makro Centurion, Makro Silverlakes, and Makro Wonderboom on 25 and 26 November 2022.

Makro’s parent company, Massmart, said they fired employees who “behaved unlawfully” during the picketing action in November. The company had photos and video footage clearly identifying those involved in “unlawful picketing behaviour”.  

“Unlawful behaviour includes but is not limited to preventing customers from accessing stores which, for example, led to the closure of Makro Woodmead,” said Massmart’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, Brian Leroni.

Leroni said the retail group provided disciplinary charges to the dismissed workers on 15 December 2022 and gave them and Saccawu an opportunity and time to deliver written responses.

It then gave an independent chairperson the evidence it had and the union’s responses to decide. The chairperson ruled on 23 February that the company should dismiss the employees who were clearly identified on video and in photos.

“The disciplinary process was both procedurally and substantively fair,” said Leroni.

But he added that Massmart understands that Saccawu has referred the dismissals to the CCMA. Saccawu hadn’t responded to News24 at the time of publication.

ALSO READ | Secondary strike fails to rock Makro owner as employees show ‘zero interest’

Leroni said these dismissals could have been avoided if the union and Makro shop stewards had responded to the company’s repeated requests to intervene and stop picketing employees from unlawful behaviour during the strike.

“We phoned Saccawu officials on numerous occasions to ask them to help the company stop the unlawful behaviour,” said Leroni.

He said the union deliberately ignored Makro’s requests. The company had to turn to the Labour Court, which ordered Saccawu and its members to stop the “unlawful” actions.

The strikes have continued periodically in different Makro stores over four months, from October to February. But the wage dispute between Saccawu and Massmart has lasted much longer – more than 10 months. The two parties reached a stalemate in January, and the matter is now before the CCMA.

READ MORE | Walmart-owned Massmart and Saccawu trade barbs over latest Makro strike

But March has not been spared of these pickets either, even after the recent dismissals. Some Makro employees joined the EFF when it picketed at Makro Woodmead on Saturday, although Makro said that these protests had not disrupted trading in its stores,

But these strikes seem to have a bigger motive than the wage dispute. Makro said Cosatu is accusing it of “inducing” employees to leave Saccawu, an allegation the company disputes. Leroni said more than 1 000 Makro staff members have voluntarily left the union in order to accept the company’s wage offer. It’s likely that more could leave as the wage deadlock continues and if the CCMA doesn’t overturn the recent dismissals.   

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