Customers exit a Game supermarket, part of Massmart Holdings Ltd, in the Fourways district of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Nadine Hutton, Bloomberg.
Customers exit a Game supermarket, part of Massmart Holdings Ltd, in the Fourways district of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Nadine Hutton, Bloomberg.

Retrenched Game employees wait for severance packages

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Oct 3, 2021

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Johannesburg – Massmart employees who were retrenched in June have lamented the delay in the payout of their severance packages.

Massmart, owner of Game and Builders Warehouse, embarked on the retrenchments following the implementation of a turnaround of its business in January 2020 to return to profitability. A retrenched Game employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Massmart had retrenched employees without benefits including severance pay.

“Massmart is also refusing to send exit packs for retrenched employees to receive their provident funds. Both Old Mutual and Sanlam have confirmed that Massmart have not sent any documents for retrenched employees,” he said.

Massmart spokesperson Brian Leroni said it was focused on ensuring it diligently met its legal obligation to pay out packages in full and as quickly as possible.

“In a process of this nature there are sometimes exceptional circumstances in which administrative delays do unfortunately occur. Our approach is to diligently resolve these matters as soon as we become aware of them. It’s therefore really difficult to comment when we have no insight into the specific case,” he said.

According to Leroni it is also worth noting that there are instances in which employees were offered alternate positions which they did not take up due to the advice provided by South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU).

Leroni said SACCAWU advised them to not take up the positions offered.

“In these cases, because alternate positions were offered, retrenchment packages are not payable. We do find that, despite our best efforts, this is not always fully appreciated by affected staff which appears to be the result of conflicting and inaccurate advice that they received,” he said. In a damning ruling, Labour Court judge Graham Moshoana in June found SACCAWU failed to act in the best interests of its members to avoid their dismissal.

According to the court, the company proposed to incorporating employees into the new Game store model and deploying them to comparable vacancies within the group in order to limit job losses.

The new store model included the reduction of working hours’ from 45 to 40 hours. Game proposed mapping employees using the 50km radius from place of residence – 6 177 employees were mapped with 5 533 employees successfully securing their positions.

The court said the remaining employees were offered positions and were directed by SACCAWU to refuse, resulting in Game issuing a notice of dismissal in terms of section 189A of the Labour Relations Act. The court found Game was entitled to retrench employees who refused to accept the positions. The court concluded that the advice given to the members was wrong.

“Had it not been dispensed with, the employees would still be employed and kept their much treasured job security. Properly defined it was treacherous and perfidious advice beyond measure,” said the court.

However SACCAWU’s head of the national organising campaigns collective bargaining unit, Khulekani Ngubane complained about the demotion of employees and said when the union differed with the company, its members were “butchered”. Ngubane said the company imposed a downward variation of terms and conditions of employment which means the redeployment of employees to lower positions on reduced terms and conditions coupled with salaries.

“We want our comrades reinstated without having their conditions of employment hindered. They are dealing with us like a tip of the iceberg, by flouting the labour laws of the country creating the labour laws of America,” he said.

However Leroni said an ongoing Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) led facilitation process with Saccawu was under way towards improving relations.

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