US: Wal-Mart plays down impact of planned Black Friday strikes
Wal-Mart is facing a series of demonstrations against it on Black Friday
US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores has insisted planned strikes across a number of its stores on Black Friday are not likely to impact trading.
A spokesperson for Wal-Mart told just-food "only a handful" of associates at "a handful" of stores across the country are participating in the strikes "made for TV events". Many of those, he said, are not Wal-Mart workers.
The retailer is facing a series of demonstrations against it this Friday, (23 November), which as the day after Thanksgiving is dubbed Black Friday in the US and is the busiest shopping day of the year in the country.
Protestors plan to demonstrate over "low wages and poor conditions" at the retailer, the New York Times reported. Organisation OUR Walmart, backed by The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is reportedly vowing to mount around 1,000 protests online and outside stores, up to and including Black Friday. OUR Walmart did not return a request for comment.
Wal-Mart, which reportedly filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board last week against UFCW seeking to prevent the protests, said many of its associations have "urged us to do something about the UFCW's latest round of publicity stunts".
The spokesperson said: "[The associates] don't think it's right that a few members that are being coerced by the UFCW are being portrayed by the media as representative of what it's like to work at Walmart.
"The fact is, we do not expect these actions by a very small minority of our associates (less than .0003 percent) at a handful of stores to have any impact on our stores or our customers shopping experience on Black Friday."
The spokesperson added disciplinary action may be taken against individual staff members in certain circumstances.
"Of course we respect the rights of our associates to express their views but if they are scheduled to work, we expect them to show up and do their job. If they don't, depending on the circumstances, there could be consequences," the spokesperson said.
"We will take every situation on a case by case basis. If associates repeatedly have unexcused absences, if they purposefully disrupt the store, or create an unsafe working condition for our customers and associates, those issues will be addressed and there are a range of disciplinary actions that will be considered depending on the nature of the misconduct."
The retailer said it expects around 1m employees to be working throughout the holiday weekend.
"We care about our associates and our associates care about providing a great customer experience on Black Friday. We're confident that's what our associates will deliver for customers this year at Wal-Mart," the spokesperson said.
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