Namib Mills’ workers strike over unfair labour practices

17 Jun 2015 15:30pm
WINDHOEK, 17 JUN 2015 (NAMPA) – Employees of Namib Mills (NM) on Wednesday staged a peaceful demonstration outside their work premises in the capital from about 07h00, accusing management of unfair labour practices.
About 200 workers demonstrated outside the NM building, demanding the re-employment of two colleagues who were dismissed from the company.
Desmond Nunuge from Windhoek was dismissed over allegations that he stole sugar and Mwilima Yamba, who was a truck driver in Katima Mulilo, allegedly stole tie-down straps from a NM customer.
However, Haingura Christian, a representative of the workers, opposed the allegations, stating to the media during the demonstration that Nunege was dismissed because “he was opening the eyes of others about a certain manager who treated workers like slaves”.
“He (manager) shouts, insults and calls workers baboons. So when he (Nunuge) placed grievances charges against the same manager, he was fired,” claimed Christian.
He further said Yamba was fired because he received a letter containing information about the Namibia National Labour Organisation (Nanlo), the union representing NM workers.
Christian added that the workers handed over a petition in May 2015 to NM management, but received no feedback.
“Management did not do anything since then, saying the union that represents us is not recognised. However, it is a recognised trade union; we even have the certificate,” he said.
Ian Collard, Chief Executive Officer of NM, said that according to the company’s disciplinary procedures, “if you take any inventory it is the same as stealing”.
“We do not tolerate that our employees steal from our customers, because if we allow that, how will anybody trust our employees to deliver our products to them?” he questioned.
Collard also stated that currently there is no recognised workers’ union at NM.
“Unfortunately Nanlo is not registered as a union at the Ministry of Labour (Labour, Industrial relations and Employment Creation). Nanlo is registered as an umbrella body for the unions. So, from a legal perspective, Nanlo cannot act as a union on our employees’ behalf,” he said.
On the racism allegations, Collard said it is very difficult to defend the claims but “from the company’s side, we do not discriminate”.
“If discriminatory grievances come up, we follow it up. About the case the workers are talking about, that case was followed up and a case was opened at the Namibian Police Force (NamPol), which was later withdrawn for reasons unknown,” he said, referring to Nunenge laying grievances charges against a manager and opening a case with the police.
The workers said they would continue to demonstrate until NM management meets their demands, and by 15h00 Wednesday, they were still demonstrating.
Collard raised concerns about the strike, saying that both the company and employees lose money.
He said the strike is illegal and based on company policies; any strike goes without remuneration to both parties.
“It’s sad that people are striking and defending two people who committed theft according to documentary proof, as well as closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage,” he said.