May, 2011

Global Union Coalition says no free pass for Walmart as South African Competition Tribunal approves its buy of Massmart

A global trade union coalition today said the decision from the South African Competition Tribunal to approve the merger of global retail giant Walmart with local retailer Massmart is not a free pass for the world’s largest company.

The Tribunal should and could have gone much further in laying down merger conditions, said the coalition formed by UNI Global Union, the South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) of North America to contest the merger.

“When you are dealing with a heavyweight, you need more than flyweight conditions,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings. “”Even though we did win concessions that the companies never would have made on their own. This is no free pass for Walmart. This is not the time for a Walmart lap of honour.”

SACCAWU, which represents thousands of workers at Massmart, has also expressed its strong disappointment with the decision.

“We reiterate our position to strongly challenge this decision,”" said SACCAWU General Secretary Bones Skulu.”"We are opposed to the acquisition of Massmart by Walmart without compelling and tangible conditions.”

In its decision, the Tribunal said the retailer must give preference as positions become available to re-hiring 503 workers who lost their jobs in Massmart last year; cannot cut staff for two years; it must honour existing labour agreements with SACCAWU for the next three years; and after the merger, it will set up a fund of 100 million rand ($US 14 million, or about 0.003% of annual global sales) for a three-year program to develop local suppliers, with trade unions sitting on the committee.

“With the economic scale of Walmart’s global business, the Tribunal should have been more ambitious in its decision. One hundred million rand is pocket money for this company,” Jennings said.

UNI believes that the decision from the Tribunal should be a wake-up call to Walmart that it needs to actively engage with unions in South Africa and around the world.

“It’s time for Bentonville to globally engage with UNI and our unions,” Jennings said. “With its new corporate buyout shop in London to invade and conquer new markets, governments and people are on alert that Walmart could be on its way to their country. Walmart should learn its lesson from South Africa. The more the Tribunal heard from Walmart, the more apprehensive they became about the merger. In the end the company had no choice but change its position.”

“In North America we have witnessed first-hand Walmart’s approach to labour relations”, said Michael Bride, UFCW’s Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies.  “We believe that this process in South Africa has effectively demonstrated to Walmart that it cannot hide from its labour record anywhere in the world, and for this reason we would echo UNI’s call that the company should sit down and negotiate a global settlement with unions from across its business.”

Southern California Supermarket Bargaining Update

Negotiations between UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442 and the three major supermarket chains continue, aided by the work of the federal mediator. Safeway, Kroger and Supervalu have made demands that would undermine working standards and threaten affordable health care coverage for tens of thousands of workers. Among the employer proposals are health & welfare contributions that cover less than half the amount needed to continue to fund the current level of benefits, inadequate pension funding, and untenable work rule language. Wage rates have not yet been discussed. The health care language alone would shift $450 million to our members over the next three years.
UFCW local unions are committed to the bargaining process while preparing their members and customers to stick together for good jobs in the supermarket industry. Picket captain meetings are scheduled this week. 

For updates, go to:

http://www.march2011.org/

UFCW Local 8GS: http://www.ufcw8.org/

UFCW Local 135: http://www.ufcw135.org/
UFCW Local 324: http://www.ufcw324.org/
UFCW Local 770: http://www.ufcw770.org/
UFCW Local 1167: http://www.ufcw1167.org/
UFCW Local 1428: http://www.ufcw1428.org/
UFCW Local 1442: http://www.ufcw1442.org/

STATEMENT BY THE UFCW REGARDING THE SENATE

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement issued by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

“”The UFCW commends the U.S. Senate for rejecting Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan yesterday. This reckless plan shows how disconnected Republicans in Congress are from hard working Americans by attempting to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class, end Medicare as we know it, and cut Medicaid and other programs that serve the poor. To add insult to injury, this plan would lower tax rates on the rich and corporations and actually increase our national debt over the next ten years.

“”At a time when millions of Americans are still looking for work, home prices are falling, oil and food prices are rising and wages have stagnated, the Republican budget plan would lead to fewer jobs and jeopardize our country’s ability to recover from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. These cuts would also cause unnecessary suffering and further weaken Americans’ confidence in their government at a time when many believe they will never achieve the American dream of owning a home, sending their children to college or retiring comfortably.

“”The UFCW will continue to fight any action by lawmakers who want to protect the wealthy few at the expense of the poor and middle class. We urge President Obama and the Democratic Party to continue to fight for a budget that rebuilds our economy, creates good jobs, revives America’s middle class and protects our most vulnerable citizens.”"