Workers and Al-Dhahra clash, resolve conflict

26 Feb 2015 17:10pm
NAUTE DAM, 26 FEB (NAMPA) – Fifteen women working in the packaging department of Al-Dhahra on Monday challenged the company over cancelled bonuses.
Al-Dhahra cultivates date palms and table grapes around the Nuate Dam in the //Karas Region.
The women are part of a larger workforce of over 100 seasonal workers who work an average of three months in a year to pack dates or grapes for export during the harvest seasons.
The protesting women approached the company management after being told that bonuses for the date harvest were scrapped.
The workers receive a wage of N.dollars 70 per day. In addition, they get a bonus of N.dollars 20 per day for attendance. If a worker arrives and works for five days in the week, she gets N.dollars 100 plus an additional N.dollars 20 for attending five full days.
“This work is very hard, but year on year, we return during harvest time to work specifically for that little bonus which makes the whole effort worthwhile,” an aggrieved Anita Hamman told Nampa on Tuesday.
She said her fellow workers were very hurt by the treatment they received when they approached management to enquire about the removal of bonuses.
Apparently, they were rudely informed that it was not stipulated in their contracts and that they were not entitled to receive it. They say they were told that if they didn’t like it, they could go look for work elsewhere. When some of them demanded to be given dismissal notices, they were chased out.
“There is a lot of favouritism here. When you talk, these people get rid of you quickly,” said another worker, Lena April.
Eveline Shigwedha, who travels from the far north to the south for the seasonal work every year, said she has been with the company since its inception in 2009.
“I started working here when there was still nothing, but we are treated like nothing. It is very painful,” she said.
The women say that as “punishment”, they were told to go work in the sun cleaning and sorting low-grade dates “that are sold to Namibians”.
On Wednesday, company Chief Executive Officer Abdulkadir Saleh told this agency that as much as workers are fighting for their rights, they should be educated about their responsibilities.
“At the end of the day, we all want to run a profitable company. If the workers don’t work and the company fails, the government fails and the economy suffers, everyone struggles,” he said.
Regarding the bonuses, Saleh, who was out of town at the time of the confrontation, said the issue has been resolved. He claimed that some newcomers to the company misunderstood the system and expected to be given their bonuses in cash on a daily basis.
“The bonus is there to encourage the workers to come to work and to put in the hours. I talked to them and explained that they will receive it at the end of the month with their salaries. It is better for them and us like that. They are happy; they understood and we are working,” he said.