afrol News, 18 March - South African and international trade unions are facing the US retail giant Walmart in court next week to stop it from entering into the South African economy without "appropriate conditions."
The legal action against the US giant, which has a globally poor reputation when it comes to workers' rights, is spearheaded by the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) and its international partner UNI Global Union.
"We are urging the Competition Tribunal to consider the experience of workers from around the globe as it deliberates on Walmart's takeover of South African retailer Massmart," said UNI Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman in a statement forwarded to afrol News.
Massmart shareholders have already accepted Walmart's offer to pay US$ 4.2 billion for a 51 percent stake in the South African company. But Mr Hoffman hopes unions can convince South Africa's Competition Tribunal to overturn the deal.
South African trade unions have been concerned about the Walmart takeover since it was known in September last year, at first trying to convince Massmart shareholders not to sell. In addition to concerns over workers' rights, SACCAWU is also alarmed about "the impact that a Walmart take-over would have on local distributors, suppliers and manufacturers," as the US company had "become so powerful" that it could dictate prices.
The South African government has also expressed its own concerns about the deal, asking the Competition Tribunal hold hearings on the deal and get more information from Walmart on how it will operate in the country.
"Walmart employs severe tactics to silence workers and keep them from having a voice on the job. It also uses its immense market share to make drastic cuts in its supply costs, often pitting local companies in a vicious race to the bottom to provide goods to Walmart at the cheapest prices," Mr Hoffman holds.
"We think this deal will be disastrous for the South African economy if the Tribunal fails to set conditions now to protect local workers and businesses," the trade unionist concluded.
In addition to next week's court case, SACCAWU and UNI are also starting a major campaign directed towards Massmart's SOuth African employees, informing about Walmart's labour policies. Finally, a large demonstration is planned for 24 March in Pretoria.
"We don't want to see the 'Walmartisation' of South Africa like we have seen in the United States, in Chile, in Argentina, in Mexico and in many other countries around the world," commented Head of UNI Commerce Alke Boessiger.
"Time and again we have seen Walmart enter a country and drive down wages and conditions for its own employees, depress conditions in the retail sector generally and wreak havoc in the local business community by driving competitors out of business and pushing suppliers to offer the lowest prices for goods sold," Ms Boessinger explained.
The trade unions believe that Walmart should be held to a strict standard to protect the local economy and workers' rights. "Allowing Walmart to operate under its 'business as usual' model would be a disaster for workers in its stores, its competitors and its suppliers," Ms Boessiger said.
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