Food retail company Shoprite has been accused of using “dirty tricks” when dealing with striking workers at its Centurion warehouse.
In a video, which News24 has obtained, thousands of workers can be seen running into the veld as what appears to be private security guards fire rounds of rubber bullets into a crowd.
“They are using private security and shooting at employees. Some were wounded that day,” said Ephraim Mphahlele from the National Transport Movement Union.
He is representing some of the staffers in wage negotiations with the retailer.
Mphahlele said around 2 000 staffers had downed tools in demand of better wages and working conditions.
“They want R12 000, they want the company to provide them with medical aid, a provident fund and a night shift allowance,” said Mphahlele.
The unionist also accused Shoprite of having an anti-worker attitude and doing all it could to show this.
“They want to hurt workers who are just engaging in a noble fight for their rights,” said the NTM general secretary.
‘To them, we are just workers and nothing more‘
One truck driver, who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, agreed with Mphahlele’s views.
“To us, Shoprite doesn’t care about our well-being or even the struggles we endure every day, just as long as you contribute to their product and make them money,” said the Shoprite employee.
He told News24 that there were in fact two shooting incidents, explaining that the first happened after dark on Wednesday and the other around 17:30 on Thursday afternoon.
“That day they shot at us, they were assisted by police. The way I see it, this was an attempt to protect the workers who betrayed us and refused to participate in the strike. They wanted us out of the way, so they could go home,” said the Shoprite staffer.
“As long as their production continues, they don’t care. To them, we are just workers and nothing more,” he added.
News24 approached Shoprite for comment on the workers‘ claims and about the video showing the shooting of striking employees.
Shoprite said: “Employees from a service provider have been striking at the distribution centre in Centurion since 23 May 2018”.
“Police on the scene took control of the situation, giving effect to a court order being disregarded.”