Automation, data mining and the future of retail jobs

Dr Salomé Teuteberg

Automation, data mining and the future of retail jobs

The Shoprite Checkers Alliance held its annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, from 13 to 15 June. The main objective of the meeting was to provide a platform for unions from Lesotho, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Eswatini to share their experiences with Shoprite Checkers over the past year.

The unions attending this year’s meeting were the National Union of Civil and Allied Workers (NUCCAW), the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), the Commercial Industrial and Allied Workers Union (CIAWU), the Sindicato Nacional dos Empregados de Comércio, Seguros e Serviços (SINECOSSE) and the Swaziland Commercial and Allied Workers Union (SCAWU).

Automation and data mining, particularly concerning employees’ data rights, were identified by the meeting as a big concern for the future. There is a growing trend towards ‘Walmartisation’ of the retail sector.

Amazon, rumoured to be entering Africa soon, has been criticised for how it treats workers in its warehouses and how it treats workers’ personal data. There are concerns about collecting, monitoring and using workers’ data and the potential impact on privacy and workplace conditions.

Amazon uses various technologies to monitor the activities of workers in its warehouses. Data from these technologies (such as productivity metrics and surveillance cameras) measures workers’ performance, creating intense pressure, stress and a general lack of privacy for workers. Anecdotally, even bathroom breaks are timed. Amazon has been accused of using data analytics and surveillance to prevent unionising. There are concerns that this model will be replicated in Shoprite stores.

Also, there is a move towards a more flexible workforce in the retail sector. We see this manifest as a move away from permanent, full-time workers to more part-time and flexi-time workers.

As an alliance, we must continue to share information and strengthen each other.

VIDEO: Shoprite Checkers Shop Stewards Alliance Company Report 2023

The Shoprite Group achieved sales growth and double-digit profit growth in the last financial year. Remuneration increased for both executive and non-executive directors. This video provides an overview of the performance of Shoprite in the last financial year, which ended in June 2022. 


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