The plummeting business situation at the border town of Oshikango has resulted in several companies massively reducing their workforce to remain afloat.
Latest figures submitted by the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) Oshikango branch indicate that over the past few months, over 50 workers have been laid off, with more companies expressing intentions to retrench workers.
Nafau Branch organiser Absalom Willem told Namibian Sun that the reasons given by the employers for the reduction in the workforce has been that companies are making losses as business at Oshikango continue to nosedive.
According to Nafau, Portugal Wholesalers has retrenched 12 workers, Luis Investments another four, while Spar Oshikango initially expressed intention to retrench 30 workers.
After negotiations between Spar Oshikango with the union, however, the franchise instead agreed to retrench workers on a voluntary basis, thus bringing the number down to 15 workers.
Willem further noted that the figure will increase in the next few months as Fysal Fresh Fruit has also expressed intention to retrench 20 workers next month, while other companies are believed to be finalising details before they approach the union.
Willem added that the retrenchment of workers not only has a negative impact on the living conditions of the effected workers, but also their dependents.
“I am strongly opposing the decision taken to dismiss our members and I’m further advising employers who notified our office with the intention of dismissing the employees to find other alternatives to avoid retrenchment,” said Willem.
Branch organiser for the Namibia Wholesale and Retail Workers Union (NWRWU), Elise Amunyela said although her union has not yet been approached by companies considering retrenching workers at Oshikango, something is definitely brewing. “At the moment we don’t have many retrenchments reported to us, but some of our members have alluded that due to the economic decline they will soon be retrenched,” said Amunyela.
The decline in business activities at the once thriving town bordering Santa Clara in the South of Angola has squarely been placed on the delay in the implementation of a currency conversion agreement between Namibia and Angola.
The agreement, signed last September at Santa Clara between the Bank of Namibia (BoN) and Banco Nacional de Angola was supposed to come into affect end of March.
Due to a change in leadership on the Angolan side, however, the implementation has been pushed to June.
Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Northern Chairperson Tomas Iindji said Angola’s newly appointed governor for the reserve bank has requested time to familiarise himself with the agreement before it can be implemented.
Iindji said until the systems are in place in Angola, Oshikango will most likely continue to experience an economic decline that will result in more and more workers being laid off.
The issue, he further added, was brought to the attention of Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein last week during NCCI’s budget presentation at Ongwediva.
“If we can get kwanzas, things will start to normalise. Right now, Oshikango businesses can’t get the US dollar or the Kwanza and that has had great repercussions. It is a great pity,” said Iindji.
Merja Iileka: Namibian Sun