Shop owner closes shop after workers protest over UIF Covid-19 relief funds

For illustration purpose. Picture: Pretoria Rekord North

Police say they did not use minimum force and that no violent incident was reported to the police, further dismissing claims that teargas was fired.

A retail shop in Benoni was forced to close it doors on Monday after a fracas ensued when unhappy employees picketed outside the outlet.

Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said what has been reported to the police is that employees at the retail shop – SuperSpar – had approached an organisation he would not name to complain about unfair treatment at the shop.

The said organisation on Monday then approached the shop’s management to raise these complaints by employees, however, the employer would not engage the organisation because it was not a workers’ union, Masondo said, adding that is when the shop owner decided to close the outlet.

“So the employees were just chanting outside the Spar, so there was no minimum force from the police, there was no violent incident that was reported to the police,” Masondo said, adding it was not true that teargas was fired at the employees, a claim made by one of the workers.

An employee told this publication that on Monday they were denied entry into the shop and that a private security company had been called to the scene by the store’s management.

The staff member said a meeting had been scheduled for Monday and that they viewed the presence of the private security personnel as a way of ensuring the meeting does not get underway.

The worker said it had been communicated on Friday that the meeting would be held on Monday.

He described what transpired on Monday as being “chaotic” and that workers would down tools until their complaints are addressed.

The workers’ complaints, he said, included that they had not been paid compensation for working during the lockdown and that they had been paid only a portion of the UIF Covid-19 Ters.

According to the employee, R4,027 had been claimed on his behalf, however, he was only paid about “a half or a quarter” of that and that after June, a communication was shared by shop management that the money claimed from the fund had been given “back to the government”.

The workers were also complaining about not being paid overtime.

The employee said one colleague was dismissed for complaining all the time after she had questioned management about not being paid overtime.

The employee said the scene on money was “hectic” and claimed that teargas was used and that police had done nothing to claim the situation.

A general manager at the shop who refused to give his name said none of the accusations the workers were making were true, saying there was proof to disprove their claims.

The manager said about two weeks ago the department of labour had investigated the claims.

In closing, he said he had no comment at this stage and abruptly ended the call.

The employee said their protest would continue on Tuesday and that management had refused to hold the meeting with them, saying their protest was illegal and that they would be subjected to a disciplinary hearing.

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)

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