Cosatu vows to take on Walmart

04 March 2011 - 16:41 By Sapa

Cosatu was planning a massive campaign against proposed acquisition of 51 percent control of Massmart by America's giant retail chain store Walmart Stores, the trade union's general secretary said on Friday.

“The campaign (against the acquisition) must be about our life or death,” said Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

He was addressing delegates attending a two-day national bargaining conference for the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) in Durban.

Vavi urged Sactwu members to help stop the Walmart take-over or force it to agree to conditions which would protect the textile industry, workers and the South African economy.

He warned that allowing Walmart to take over Massmart would have far-reaching implications for the local clothing industry.

“If it (Walmart) comes here, it will spend millions a day on advertisements. This means that local stores such as Woolworths, will suffer a serious knock and that will lead to retrenchments,” said Vavi.

The South African government would eventually collect smaller revenue in the form of taxdes because many people would be laid off by retails shops that could not compete with Wal-Mart, he said.

Cosatu wants Walmart to agree to abide by local labour laws, source 75 percent of goods locally and to offer better remuneration.

He accused the chain store of sourcing cheap goods from countries known for exploiting workers.

“The American experience tells us that they (Walmart) don't treat workers well. They are vampires. We must stop them,” he said.

The Competition Commission last month recommended that the Competition Tribunal approve, without conditions, the proposed purchase of control of Massmart by Wal-Mart Stores.

The tribunal has set aside four days from March 22 for hearings into the takeover, and is expected to hand down its decision within 10 business day.

Vavi said unions affiliated to Cosatu would make submissions at the hearings.

“We believe that we must not only rely on government but do something ourselves,” he said.