Zambia Says Shoprite Should Pay Staff Almost Triple Minimum Wage

Shoprite Holdings Ltd., Africa’s biggest grocer, should pay its Zambian workers almost triple the country’s statutory minimum wage because it’s a multinational, the nation’s labor minister said.

The retailer’s almost 3,000 Zambian workers should, like the lowest paid civil servants, receive closer to the 3,000 kwacha ($567) a month rather than the 1,132 kwacha minimum wage of shop workers, Labor Minister Fackson Shamenda said today in a phone interview from the capital, Lusaka. Shoprite employees in Zambia ended a two-day strike over pay this week.

“If it is an institution like a multinational corporation, there is no way you can base your minimum wage on the statutory instrument,” Shamenda said.

Shoprite on Oct. 16 reversed a decision to fire about 2,200 striking workers after government pressure, said Sarita Van Wyk, a spokeswoman for the Cape Town-based company. Wage talks will resume next week after Shamenda gave Shoprite and the labor unions 10 days to reach an agreement. The retailer has more Shoprite stores in Zambia than any country except South Africa, according to its 2013 annual report.

Shoprite Chief Executive Officer Whitey Basson wants to meet Zambia’s President Michael Sata after Shamenda threatened to revoke the company’s trading license, Business Day reported earlier today. Shamenda denied making the threat, while Shoprite said Basson would try to meet Zambian officials to clarify the position of foreign investors in Africa’s biggest copper producer.

Minimum Wage

George Chellah, Sata’s spokesman, couldn’t immediately comment when contacted on his mobile phone, and neither could Robert Musanje, president of the National Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers, which represents about 1,800 Shoprite workers.

Shoprite complied with the government’s new minimum wage on July 1 and many of its Zambian workers earn higher salaries, Van Wyk said in reply to e-mailed questions.

Shoprite competes in Zambia with the Netherlands-based Spar International and Pick n Pay Stores Ltd., another South African retailer. Massmart Holdings Ltd., the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unit, also has an outlet in the country.

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