Ministry inspects Choppies over labour disputes


The Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabeo has told Parliament that his ministry is inspecting Choppies Group of Companies over disputes between management and the employees.

He said they carried out labour inspections in 35 Choppies stores countrywide from May 8 to 17, 2018 in Gaborone and in Francistown from November 27 till December 9, 2018. He said labour inspection revealed non-compliance in some areas relating to overtime allowance, sick leave, severance benefits and employee representative committees. 

“The management of the company was advised on labour laws and on areas where it was not in compliance with the law.  It was required to bring the company practices in line with the law.  In a meeting held by officials of my ministry and management of Choppies Enterprise on February 4, 2019, the management assured my ministry that the defects that were identified during labour inspections had been rectified,” he said. 

Section 80 of the Employment Act outlines the items that can be deducted from an employee’s salary, and sales shortage is not one of those outlined, says Mabeo. 

He explained that even though the issues of deductions from wages to offset shortage did not surface during the labour inspection, management indicated that the sales shortage might result in disciplinary action. Notwithstanding this, employees are said to be at liberty to remedy any shortage they encounter. 

Mabeo also emphasised that it was not appropriate for employees to work for long hours without payment saying that was not in conformity with Section 95 of the Employment Act. He said Choppies Enterprise was found not to be fully compliant with that section, particularly with regard to the rate of overtime payable during rest periods and public holidays.  Upon follow-up management indicated that the correct rates for overtime are currently being used. 

“However, I am not aware that some employees take home monthly pay ranging from P0 to P300 due to shortages incurred during the course of work. As I have indicated earlier, the issue of deductions from wages did not surface during labour inspections. It is therefore incumbent upon anyone who is affected to report the matter as trade dispute at the labour office,” he added. 

The minister also advised Choppies management to establish social dialogue structures in order to minimise conflict and employee grievances.  He said his ministry would continue carrying labour inspections in the company with a view to advising workers and the employer on provision of the law in order to enhance compliance with the law.  He further called on employees to approach labour officers for assistance they may need pertaining to their employment.

Mabeo was responding the MP for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaigwa who asked him what was being done to address the ill treatment of Choppies employees. He also asked whether it was appropriate for the company to deduct money from employees’ salaries for shortage incurred during their course of work and if it was appropriate to work long hours without overtime pay. 

He also asked the minister if he was aware that some employees take home monthly salaries ranging from P0 to P300 due to shortages incurred during the course of work and what was being done to assist such employees. 

For his part, the MP for Gabane/Mmankgodi Pius Mokgware asked the minister why Choppies was still engaging foreigners in managerial posts when there were a lot of unemployed youth qualified for those posts. He asked if the employers would continue cutting off salaries and not paying their employees overtime. 

Responding to this, Mabeo pointed out that Choppies stores had recently engaged a few Batswana on management posts. He added that Choppies management promised his ministry that it would pay owed employees their overtime.

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