Boycott Woolworths, bring in Sainsbury’s
Last week I posted a tweet on Twitter suggesting that people should boycott Woolworths because of their labour practices. Woolworths staff face retrenchments | Labour | Mail & Guardian:
About 600 Woolworths workers face retrenchment or early retirement if they choose to not sign the new flexible-hour contracts.
Human resource officers from Woolworths visited stores in KwaZulu-Natal last week to inform fixed-shift staff that in order to accommodate the company’s 365-days-a-year trading policy staff would be switched to flexible shifts, the Star reported on Monday.
And Macrina Walker commented: “Indeed. It will be interesting to see if the sort of Christians who made a big noise about Halaal hot cross buns will also kick up a fuss about this.”
Well, I don’t know if the kind of Christians who made a fuss about Halaal hot cross buns have made a fuss about this, but there has been a bit of a fuss about it, from a rather surprising quarter.
In Britain, the Sunday trading laws were relaxed for the period of the Olympic Games, in the hope, no doubt, that it would boost profits. Apparently it failed to do so. Though most Brits seemed to feel good about the Olympic Games, feeling good didn’t seem to make them want to rush out and buy something at any hour of the day or night.
The British government, however, is now thinking of making the relaxed Sunday trading laws permanent. And opposition to that proposal has come from a British equivalent of Woolworths: BBC News – Sainsbury’s chief attacks plans to reform Sunday trading:
The head of Sainsbury’s has attacked government plans to make temporarily extended Sunday trading hours permanent.
Chief executive Justin King said: “Maintaining Sunday’s special status has great merit.”
This is not neccessarily purely out of concern for the workers, but there are also sound business reasons for it.
In a separate, joint letter also to the Sunday Telegraph, the general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), the Bishop of Oxford and the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores said they had been “alarmed” to hear that ministers were considering making the change permanent.
“With margins being squeezed and sales flatlining, the last thing the retail sector needs is increased overheads for little or no return…
The Keep Sunday Special campaign said: “David Cameron came into government promising to make this country the ‘most family friendly in Europe’ but over one million families have at least one parent working on both weekend days, meaning they have little time to spend with their children” (Hat-tip to Opinionated Vicar: Double Standards).
So perhaps the time has come to boycott Woolworths, and encourage Sainsbury’s to open up their shops in South Africa, since they seem to have better labour practices. And perhaps Cosatu should take a closer look at what firms like Woolworths are doing.
Modern business practice seems to be to regard workers as sub-human. They are not seen as people, but merely as “human resources” — a dehumanising term that denotes dehumanising labour practices.