Competition Appeal Court decision on Walmart-Massmart merger vindicates union concerns

UNI Global Union said that its concerns and those of its South African affiliate SACCAWU and other leading trade unions including SACTWU, COSATU and its US affiliate UFCW have been vindicated by the Competition Appeal Court’s decision today.
Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union General Secretary, said, “The struggle for fair play is far from over. We welcome the decision by the Appeal Court that the 503 Massmart workers who lost their jobs should be reinstated. The Court’s call for a study to find ways to protect South Africa’s small and medium sized suppliers in light of the merger and to consider new conditions is the right one. We are pleased that our affiliate SACCAWU will be one of the three parties taking part in the study along with the Government and Walmart-Massmart.”
Jennings continued, “The fact the Appeal Court has decided to commission this study is further evidence that Walmart was not forthcoming in the process. We demand that Walmart collaborate fully with the study and, bearing in mind that its global supply chain is run from China, is open and honest about how it intends to include South Africa’s SMEs into its system. What UNI Global Union and our affiliate SACCAWU are calling for is local investment in local suppliers to grow local jobs. Not half-baked promises and loose financial commitments.  The study provides a new opportunity for partnership and a new approach by Walmart. The story is not over.”
The Appeal Court endorsed the previous decision that there should be no retrenchments resulting from the merger for two years after the transaction and that the existing labour agreements and collective bargaining positions should be respected.
Jennings concluded, “This is a win for jobs and bargaining. This mega deal required stiff conditions for its approval. The Appeal Court decision to ask for a further study is a step in the right direction. Even before today’s decision Massmart backed by Walmart has started a wave of aggressive expansion, acquiring Rhino Cash & Carry and the Fruit Spot as well as expanding its Cambridge Food supermarket chain subsidiary. The majority of new workers are being employed through labour brokers. It’s no wonder that Judge Denis Davis has called for further investigation. The Walmart case in South Africa has serious ramifications for the rest of Africa and beyond, including India where UNI is also working with local unions and government on the consequences of allowing Walmart into its retail market.”
SACCAWU’s Mike Abraham said, “In my view the judiciary had a very conservative approach to the issues we raised. We argued that Walmart’s entry will have serious implications for competition, for employment and the conditions of employment. The way workers will win is not through litigation but by increasing our number of members and taking on business in the shop floor.” Abrahams said the study was a positive move and would give the unions another opportunity to show how the local economy would be adversely affected by the merger.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which played an active role in the legal proceedings, also reacted to the judgment. UFCW’s Deputy Organising Director for Global Strategies, Michael Bride said, "The Court’s judgment affirmed the view of the global union coalition that the 503 retrenchments were in fact connected to the merger and that these workers had to be reinstated. We call on Walmart – which has always maintained that it respects South Africa and its laws – to immediately accept the Court’s findings and confirm that these workers can look forward to getting their jobs back".

Source: Uni Global Union

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