Mmegi Online :: Choppies: Some animals are more equal than others
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Last Updated
Tuesday 20 November 2018, 13:46 pm.
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Choppies: Some animals are more equal than others

In his famous novel, Animal Farm, George Orwell poignantly captures the nature of man's relationship with his kind, when he writes, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
By Staff Writer Tue 20 Nov 2018, 20:29 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Choppies: Some animals are more equal than others








In the world of work, class differences, created mostly by poor working conditions and low pay for the blue collar workers are a thorny issue that causes concern for both the worker and the labour movement.   Choppies Group is a high-profit making retail company operating 58 retail outlets in Southern Africa, with 49 stores in Botswana with 3, 900 employees. Its prospectus shows that by the year ended June 2011, Choppies made P124 million in profits after tax.  You would expect workers of this company to have glittering tales. But a cashier at one of the 49 stores, speaking on anonymity, paints a grotesque picture. She says though they toil from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., serving endless streams of customers, the moneymaking chain store pays its workers peanuts.  "You won't believe that the packers earn about P700, while we cashiers earn P900. On the other hand, our supervisors make about P3, 000," she says.  She also says as you go up the chain store, an assistant manger earns about P6, 000, whilst a store manager walks away with P7, 000 per month. Conversely, those at the top of the Choppies pay structure pocket as much as P500, 000 a month.  According to the prospectus, Choppies Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramachandran Ottapathu earned more than P5 million whilst Choppies deputy chairman Farouk Ismail reaped about P5.6 million in salaries and bonuses during the period under review. This means in a month, Ismail pocketed about half a million Pula every month while the CEO took about P443, 000 in a month. Juxtaposed with a shop-floor assistant's salary, which stands at around P700, it becomes immediately clear that the disparity between those at the bottom of the retailer and those at the top is staggering.
The Choppies situation is a microcosm of what happens in the Botswana job market and the entire world where the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" has remained wide as the skilled personnel gets more salaried than the unskilled. This has created a lot of social problems as the poor struggle even to buy food and other essentials for the family. "Most of

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us even suffer a lot because as a result of my low salary, I have to rent a cheap house in Mogoditshane where I pay P350, which gobbles up almost half my salary. So from the remainder I have to ensure that I pay for transport to work, food, clothes and emergencies," says one Choppies employee. She says that renting accommodation in Mogoditshane can be dangerous especially for people who knock off as late as 8 p.m.

One evening after alighting from a combi, she was ambushed by thugs who grabbed her cellular phone, handbag and also beat her up, leaving her with a blue eye. "The next day when I told my boss about the situation and said I would come late for work the next day because I had to go to the clinic, he simply told me that he would deduct my earnings for the time that I would be away," she says.

Mmegi's efforts to get comment from the Choppies management hit a snag after the head of human resources Ben Steglin referred Mmegi enquiries to another official Sadique Kebonang whose mobile phone was off-air. Meanwhile, in the Choppies prospectus, the company says that it has recognised the importance of employees' well-being and loyalty and that it gives its staff opportunities for career advancement through bursaries, training, development, and motivational programmes.

"The training, development, and motivational programmes have built corporate knowledge and passion among employees. The group has been rewarded by low staff turnover, and an employee cadre of significant experience and knowledge in the Group's niche, in a competitive industry," reads the prospectus. The company also says that it set aside five percent of the total issued share capital of Choppies after the listing for employees and "thereof, has been earmarked to be issued in terms of an employee share incentive scheme. The terms of the scheme have yet to be finalised. The terms as settled will comply with the BSE Listing Requirements. Choppies will present the scheme for approval by shareholders by ordinary resolution in a general meeting, and to the BSE for its approval, prior to its implementation," reads the prospectus.

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