Botswana Federation of Public Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) have engaged attorney Nelson Ramaotwana to represent about 65 dismissed Choppies employees in their case against the giant retail store.
Choppies workers at Westgate Mall embarked on a strike over salary increment on the 26th of March this year. The Choppies Management did not heed the workers’ plea, but instead dismissed workers after giving them an ultimatum to return to work within 24 hours. Their employment was terminated last month.
BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa confirmed to this publication that part of the assistance they have accorded the workers include legal representation by Ramaotwana. He revealed that the federation will also be mobilising Choppies workers across the country against acts of unfair labour practices, sheer arrogance and exploitation of workers by Choppies.
“Choppies is making lots of millions through the hard work of Batswana workers and consumers and yet it pays slave wages to the workers. Choppies also appears to be racially discriminatory as most of its Management is lined with Indians, and Batswana not trusted to be part of Management, yet the Company make huge profits in Botswana more than anywhere in countries of their stores,” stated Motshegwa.
He said Ramaotwana would be helping the dismissed workers with their appeal and if they are not reinstated they would proceed with a legal suit against Choppies Westgate. In one of the appeal letters seen by this publication written to Chief Operation Officer, the employees acknowledge participating in the strike. The appellant has indicated that following an ultimatum to return to work within 24 hours they did so on the 27th of March 2018.
“On the 27th of March when I arrived at work it was later announced that management had requested to meet four (4) representatives to discuss modus operandi of resuming work. I am advised that in law once an employee appears at work within the stipulated timeframe of 24 hours, the threat to expel cease forthwith. I was shocked to receive a letter summoning me for disciplinary hearing held on the 25th April 2018,” said the employee in the appeal letter.
On the grounds of appeal, the workers argue that the employer did not act fairly as some of the employees who participated in the strike were not fired. It is also argued that courts of law have held that an employer must apply the ‘parity principle’ when disciplining unprotected strikers; if the employer decides to dismiss one striker, it must dismiss them all; conversely, if one striker’s action is condoned, the action of all the other strikers should likewise be condoned.
“The employer failed to observe this time tested parity principle in that more than seventy-three strikers were not cited or summoned for disciplinary hearing; yet they partook in the said strike. They also resumed work with others on the 27th March 2018. Once an employer has issued an ultimatum, it is normally assumed to have waived the right to dismiss the strikers until the ultimatum expires. Common law dictates that once the employer allows the employees to resume, it is assumed that the employer has forgiven them and waives the right to discipline them for the strike,” reads the letter.