Hostility and reluctance to take up membership with the newly-formed union, Cashiers, Shop Assistants and Allied Workers Union (CASAWU) is a direct result of uncooperative employers and intimidation of workers.
“Intimidation and holding employees at ransom by some employers in the private sector sadly has become so common that workers shy away from the union,” said CASAWU secretary general, Opelo Baleseng.
He said the union, which was formed and legally recognised on May 25, 2015 as a representative of workers, has been very conscious in recognising the role played by cashiers, shop assistants and other related employees.
The union’s main objectives centre on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their members, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions.
Baleseng told Mmegi that their efforts to recruit members have been a daunting task as some employers have been so hostile and refusing to accept that employees are free to join unions.
He explained that before recruiting members, they meet with most managers in the industry to accustom them to the union and its mandate but most end up not wanting to recognise them.
“This clearly shows measures bosses are willing to take to cling to their forced powers and retaliate against workers who simply want to make a living to support their families and unionise for better working conditions and collective bargaining,” he said.
He said where there were clear illegal and unfair labour practices, employers continue to pull all stops to prevent workers from exercising their rights.
Furthermore, Baleseng said by refusing to recognise or even acknowledge the existence of the union despite reaching its threshold was a clear indication by employers that no worker would be allowed to join the union.
“Workers are often held at ransom and others go through illegal profiling and threats just to intimidate them despite most of them indicating that they have long wanted a union to represent them,” he said.
He pointed out that most employers believe that union encourage rowdiness in workers and often disrupt the smooth running of their respective business.
But not all is lost as some employers are happy to welcome CASAWU officials and recognise them as representatives of the workers.
He said at the moment they have 400 official members against a potential membership of over 10, 000 workers.
“We have many members that are yet to register and most are happy now that they would speak with one voice,” he said.
CASAWU is also worried about employers who do not offer contracts to employees because during labour disputes it becomes difficult to mediate.
According to the union’s industrial relations manager, Dimpho Nyambe, most workers, especially cashiers and shop assistants, are often hired with just a word of mouth leading to exploitations, as there are no guidelines as to their duties and what was expected of them.
“Lately, we have been dealing with cases where workers were unfairly dismissed or ill-treated. But we often find ourselves in difficult positions as there are no contract. We are trying hard to make workers aware that contracts are very important when starting a new job,” he said.
Nyambe said exploitations such as working long hours without pay, knocking off late without transport and receiving cut salaries without explanations are some of the issues they will be addressing extensively.