Crippling Debmarine strike looming

August 19, 2014, 4:18pm

Crippling Debmarine strike looming

 

The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) is gearing up for a Debmarine strike that is set to bring the company to its knees, the union’s general secretary Ebben Zarondo said yesterday.

This comes after the union and management of Debmarine reached a wage negotiation deadlock last week on Thursday.

The union is demanding an increase of 11 percent in basic wages, 15 percent in rental allowance,12 percent in seagoing allowance, N$600 ticket allowance and N$600 benefit parity allowance for the A3- B2 category.

The company has offered a 10.5 percent increase in basic wages,14 percent in rental allowance, 11 percent in seagoing allowance and a N$400 ticket allowance, which the union has rejected.

Zarondo said their members would take to the streets very soon.

“We are just waiting for the certificate of unresolved issues,” he said. Meanwhile the management of the Namdeb Diamond Corporation and the MUN signed a wage agreement on Saturday after a two-week strike that almost crippled the diamond industry.
The company lost nearly N$60 million in income since the strike commenced on 2 August.

Close to 800 workers participated in the inudtsrial strike after wage negotiations deadlocked.
MUN’s Namdeb branch secretary for information and publicity, Mathew Nangombe, told Nampa yesterday that the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Alpheus Muheua, acted as mediator when the agreement was signed at the ministry’s offices in Windhoek.

“We are back at work after the agreement was signed on Saturday. Workers have since then returned, and today everybody should be at work,” he stated.
Nangombe said the three-year wage agreement included a 10 percent salary increase across the board for 2014, and eight percent for 2015 and 2016 respectively; an increase in the housing allowance of 14 percent for 2014; another 12 percent for 2015, and 10 percent for 2016.

The company’s contribution to the workers’ medical aid scheme has also been increased to 80 percent, meaning employees will now only contribute 20 percent.

Last week, MUN southern regional chairperson John Ndeutepo during a media conference accused the government of turning a blind eye to the strike, saying the economy could inevitably suffer crippling consequences.

Namdeb is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Namdeb Holdings (Pty) Limited, which is owned in equal shares (50:50) by the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers. The strike started after a last-ditch attempt by deputy minister Muheua to avert industrial action failed.
Nangombe said the issue of the workers’ children’s school fees had not yet been sorted out, and would be referred for arbitration.  The workers are demanding that the company subsidises 85 percent of the fees.

“We could not agree on the issue of school fees,” he added.  Workers initially demanded a 15 percent salary increase for the bargaining unit; 100 percent medical aid contribution; a subsidy of 85 percent for school fees; and a 14 percent housing allowance increase.

The union demanded decent salaries as well as quality healthcare and education, which they said are basic necessities for any developing nation.

By George Sanzila for the New Era.  Additional Reporting by Nampa