CAPE TOWN – The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Monday it was assessing a complaint against African retail giant Shoprite following allegations of abuse and unlawful arrest of workers at a branch near Cape Town.
The complaint comes as Shoprite and other South African corporations are under pressure to create jobs in an economy struggling to overcome a recession and reduce unemployment.
“The SAHRC can confirm that it has received a complaint lodged against Shoprite,” said spokeswoman Gail Smith. She said the commission has not decided how to proceed.
The commission, which is mandated by the constitution to help entrench human rights, can decide to investigate, use alternative dispute resolution or pursue litigation.
The complaint stems from an incident on August 11 when seven cashiers were arrested for taking tips from customers, according to a statement from Workers International Vanguard Party, a leftist party and lobby group.
“We are paid around 650 rand ($49) a week so if someone is going to give us a 50 rand we going to take it, but we didn’t steal because we balanced our money at the end of the day,” said one of the workers who face an internal disciplinary hearing.
The woman, who declined to be identified, told Reuters she and her colleagues were handcuffed by police and led through the store in front of customers.
Shoprite said tipping cashiers was against its policy, which say cashiers may not have any personal money with them during work hours.
“Shoprite is obliged to take action in order to protect its assets and therefore involved the police to investigate suspicions of theft at its Pelican Park branch,” it said in a statement.