Shoprite Fires 3,000 Striking Zambian Staff, Union Says

Shoprite Holdings Ltd. (SHP), Africa’s biggest grocer, fired almost 3,000 workers who are striking over pay and conditions in Zambia, according to a union.

The Cape Town-based company dismissed the employees yesterday and told them they can reapply for their positions after a strike began on Oct. 14, Robert Musanje, president of the National Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers, said by mobile phone today from Lusaka, the capital. The strike continues, he said.

“We were busy trying to persuade the workers to return to work yesterday,” Musanje said. “As we were doing that, we received a shock that the management of Shoprite had decided to dismiss all the workers.”

Shoprite spokeswoman Sarita Van Wyk did not immediately respond to e-mailed questions today seeking confirmation of the firings.

Shoprite runs 21 stores in Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, and nine Hungry Lion fast-food outlets, according to its 2013 annual report. The country has the most Shoprite stores outside South Africa, the report shows.

Union leaders will meet with Fackson Shamenda, the labor minister, and Shoprite management today, Musanje said.

“Government cannot accept” the firings, he said.

Konkola Copper Mines Plc, the Zambian unit of Vedanta Resources Plc (VED), said in May it would cut 2,000 jobs after costs rose and prices for the metal fell. The company reversed the decision in June after holding talks with government and unions.

Shoprite increased its Zambian employees’ pay in July to comply with minimum wage laws, Van Wyk said in a reply to e-mailed questions yesterday.

“The dispute between management and the union centers around additional increases and the restructuring of allowances that form part of employees’ remuneration, that is demanded by workers,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at mhill58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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