On the possibility of a binding agreement on the

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Unformatted text preview: how other people feel”. On the possibility of a binding agreement on the trade union recognition with Wal-Mart, he insisted that this would be left to local management to decide. “We will respect the local leadership here on how they want to take the union relationship forward... Grant [Pattison] will do what is right for the business and we respect the fact that he is a South African running a South African business”. He repeatedly emphasised the respect for local laws and culture. “Wal-Mart requires each country operation to comply with all relevant laws and regulations”. “Wal-Mart honours existing union relationships and contracts within acquired companies”. “Wal52 Mart conducts a wage and benefit survey to ensure that its employment conditions are competitive in each market.” “Wal-Mart strives to develop an environment that encourages open, respectful and direct communication with its associates, whether or not a union is in place.” Mr Pattison According to Mr Pattison, thirty eight per cent of Massmart staff is unionised. Mr Pattison indicated that Massmart was “willing to bargain with trade unions” and has a “desire to be the employer of choice.” He admitted that there had been deterioration in the relationship with trade unions, in particular with SACCAWU, in the period leading up to its take-over by Wal-Mart. However, he denied that this was in anyway related to the entry of Wal-Mart. He also denied that the retrenchment of 503 workers was related to the entry. He explained that Massmart introduced some efficiencies that led to 503 workers being retrenchment months prior to the merger. “Management takes responsibility for the re-engineering and I have to live with the consequence, my conscience of having to retrench those 503 employees.” While he said he would encourage his executives to re-employ those workers in areas where there were opportunities, he was not prepared to make an undertaking to re-instate them. He stated that there was no agreement with SACCAWU regarding the retrenchments, and admitted that they had negotiated with affected workers directly and by-passed the union in violation of the recognition agreement with SACCAWU. However, he attributed this to a genuine mistake and not an attempt to side-line the union. “There is union representation and we have things in store called shop stewards.” He suggested that the issue was erroneously handled at store level, and that the union had taken up the issue when they were out of line. 53 Upon the announcement of a deal, Massmart issued a statement to the effect that COSATU and SACCAWU leadership had been consulted. It turned out several largely unsuccessful attempts to talk to the unions were made. It transpired that The Secretary General of COSATU was sent a text message (sms) informing him of the transaction. “It’s quite difficult to be in communication with senior members of the union”. “So it was a call, an attempted fax, and a final resort to an sms…” Eventually a discussion was held with the President of COSATU, Sdumo Dlamini. However, Mr Pattison appeared unsure of the name and position of the person he spoke to, constantly and erroneously referring to the President of COSATU as ‘Sudo’. When government proposed a social dialogue between Wal-Mart / Massmart, trade unions and the government, Massmart responded positively to the idea and Mr Pattison directly participated in the social dialogue. He regarded the social dialogue as a forum to discuss future relationships. “The meetings were useful in improving Massmart’s understanding of where the SACCAWU come from and vice versa.” Mr Pattison made it clear that Massmart did not participate in the social dialogue with the intention of entering into a binding commitment that could later be incorporated into enforceable conditions confirmed by the Competition Tribunal. The intention was rather to understand where the unions and the government were coming from with their concerns and debate the possible solutions. Massmart was also willing to sign a non-binding ‘statement of intent’ setting out what they were intending to do after Wal-Mart’s entry. The social dialogue did not bear any obvious results, according to Pattison, as they were not willing to meet government and union’s expectations. 54 b. Trade Union Perspective COSATU COSATU’s position was summarised by its President, Sdumo Dlamini, in parliament, “Considering Wal-Mart’s deplorable record on labour rights and repressive attitude to trade unionism, indiscriminate use of suppliers who violate environmental, health and safety standards, and a general disregard for compliance with competition rules to the detriment of other industry players, jobs and livelihoods, we can only argue, Chairperson, that our corner of the world is in a far worse position as a consequence of this Tribunal decision. We remain convinced that Wal-Mart’s takeover is not in the best interests of this country and we will continue to oppose this deal.” COSATU announced that it would fight the entry of Wal-Mart into South Africa...
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