Shoprite workers down tools – The Nation

Date: October 9, 2010
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Name of article: Shoprite workers down tools
Name of Publication: The Nation newspaper
Date: 20 October 2009
Country: Malawi
Theme: Gender equality and labour
Skills: Sources
Genre: News

GEM class: Gender Blind, with missed opportunities

This article is a news item that focuses on labour action undertaken by protesting workers. The article describes and outlines the reasons compelling workers to stage a sit-in at Shoprite stores at a shopping mall. The workers protested against management’s decision to place casual employees on a part-time status, a change that compromises the number of years they worked for the company. Workers also demanded a pay hike and called for the removal of their general manager.

The story is about Shoprite workers and the casualisation of labour. Casual workers put down their tools in protest of their redefinition as part-time workers – a move that would compromise their length of service.

The workers demands include pay increases of 85% and the removal of the general manager for his alleged ill treatment of workers. The Minister of Labour, Yusuf Mussa, intervenes in favour of the workers.

Unfortunately, no female sources were interviewed, despite images which reveal the majority of the striking workers to be women.

This story is gender blind with missed opportunities. The article could have explored the service sector which predominantly engages women casual workers.

It failed to explore the dynamic and changing workforce or source corporate response and labour organisations analysis on globalisation and its impact on the economy and the redefinition of labour.

At a micro level, it does not properly examine the impact on workers, both in terms of income and security. Women and casual labour face high exploitation in this sector and this is not addressed in this news item.

The gender-dimension does not surface at all, even in terms of sources used – all sources that were secured are male. Gender clearly was not the agenda in a story that screams: Striking women workers. This gap is reflected in the content.

The headline addresses the worker protest. It does not convey a stereotype. The headline: “Shoprite workers down tools”, immediately indicates to the reader the identity of the institution that is targeted. It also informs readers of the specific action of the protesting workers.

There are five sources in the story including an expert; a government official; an eye witness and a member of management. There is no female voice. In addition, the absence of comments from the striking workers was a missed opportunity in allowing readers a sense of the vulnerability workers face.

While the author lists some of the unmet demands which led to the action, striking workers comments could have made the story more comprehensive.

The language is neutral. From a journalistic perspective, the article flows well and the structure is tight.

Visual images
The visual illustrates the content of the story fairly well. It shows workers on strike, both men and women, even though there is a larger presence of women. Images of workers with a placard include one of their demands. “GM is cruel we don’t want you.” The caption reinforces the demand. It reads: “The workers showing a placard calling for the removal of their superiors.” This caption ties in well with the placard.

Placement or positioning
The story is placed prominently on page three and falls under the news section. Its position in the paper indicates that the story is significant. The space afforded, picture and body, signals the high news value attached to this story.




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