- Dis-Chem managers allegedly force floor staff to speak only English to clients
- Humiliating and degrading Mickey Mouse Ears compulsory for disgruntled staff members
- Employees embark on a National strike, demanding an increase in minimum wages as well as annual bonuses
Leading retail giant Dis-Chem has been dealt some crippling blows this last week. With staff embarking on a strike after numerous claims of mistreatment by management including not being able to speak indigenous African languages to clients, being made to wear Mickey Mouse ears and not even being allowed to check their phones while at work.
City Press reported that when they put these claims to the chief executive for the company, Ivan Saltzman, he didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. He claimed that there was no such language policy in place and that the ears, a sales gimmick, were not compulsory. He made no comment on the phone allegations.
A ban on African Languages
City Press further stated that a furious reader had written in to tell them a cashier, whom he had greeted in isiZulu had responded in English. The staff member explained to him that a Dis-Chem policy prohibited floor staff from speaking anything except English to customers.
This allegation was confirmed when a further investigation found two employees who confirmed the ban on African languages except, apparently, Afrikaans which had been allowed.
They also went on to say that “ working conditions were not good at Dis-Chem stores and warehouses” and that using phones, even to check on family members, was banned at work.
Saltzman called these claims “ ludicrous” and further saying “ staff are encouraged to communicate as clearly and directly as possible with the customer”.
The Pan SA Language Board was outraged by the situation with spokesperson Sibusiso Nkosi said that, if the allegations were true, the language issue was a violation of the Constitution.
“ After more than 20 years in a democratic country this still happens; it's out of order,” he said adding that direct intervention by the board was probable.
Mickey Mouse Ears for staff?
Tweets from a customer, Tian Johnson, said that staff at Dis-Chem told him they had been forced to wear ear headbands and that should they misplace them they would have to pay R150 for a new pair. The staff members felt that they were derogatory and offensive.
“It is wrong to position a black body to entertain whites and people with power in this way,” said Johnson.
Despite the reports steaming in Saltzman responded by saying that the ears were “enthusiastically embraced by the majority of our staff as part of the Disney MicroPopz marketing promotion. This is the first that I have heard of any dissent or unhappiness.
It has come as quite a shock to me. It was not our intention for staff to feel humiliated or embarrassed. We also have plenty of spare Mickey ears and it is not a head office policy for staff to buy replacements.”
Dis-Chem Staff go on strike
The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers ( NUPSAW) announced a national strike by Dis-Chem workers on Friday. Their demands include a basic salary of R12 500 as well as annual bonuses.
National organizer for the Union, Solly Malema said: “Dis-Chem is worse than apartheid because it has forced Nupsaw members to sign resignation forms if they embark on a strike ... And if you don’t sign the resignation form, they lock you out before the strike can even start.”
Dis-Chem neither confirmed nor denied his claims by the time of this articles release.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration ruled on Friday, that about 120 outsourced Dis-Chem workers must be made permanent from the 1st of December. Saltzman said that he welcomed the ruling.
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