Retrenchments haunt Husab contract workers

26 Sep 2015 12:00pm
HUSAB, 26 SEP (NAMPA) - The contracting nature of employment on the construction of the Husab Uranium Mine put workers in fear of being thrown back onto the streets at the end of their contracts.
Those who spoke to Nampa on condition of anonymity out of fear of victimisation, said companies here are retrenching employees and recruiting new ones like a “factory production line”.
“Five of us were served with retrenchment letters last week, informing us that our work is finished. The company did not tell us when we will get our monies that are due.
“We are now unemployed and do not know where to find jobs,” said a former welder at China State Construction and Engineering, which is constructing the mine.
Another employee who was laid off, said she has been asking management to give her a reference letter but they failed to do so.
“They refuse to give us reference letters, and without these letters it is tough to get a new job,” said the woman.
Approached for comment on Thursday, Tina Shiidi, a document controller at China State who also deals with recruitment of applicants, confirmed that they had indeed lay off welders but recruited bricklayers.
She explained that the new project requires bricklayers and not welders, and that is why they had to get new staff for the job at hand.
“We keep a list of all the people who worked for us so that when we get a new project that requires their skills, we call them back to work,” she said.
Shiidi said those who were retrenched will receive their money at the end of this month, together with their reference letters.
She noted that the company did not give testimonials to retrenched employees with the intention to force them to get medical check-ups to determine their health status before they leave the mine.
“It is very important that they are examined before we let them leave the mine. Companies refuse to employ anyone who worked at mines without a doctor’s report that states their health condition, so as soon as the check-ups are done then they get their letters,” Shiidi told this agency.
Shiidi estimated the number of employees at China State to be less than 100 after the retrenchments, but could not give the total number of workers laid off this year.
Commercial manager at Sinohydro Construction, Eddie Fang who was also approached by Nampa on Thursday, said that his company retrenched close to 400 people this year.
“At the moment we have 580 workers, but we had a total of 1 000 employees. We retrench because we get new projects which require new people, but if the new job needs the same skills already found in the company we just continue with our workers,” said Fang, whose company is also constructing the mine.
Husab mine has over 3 000 contractor and sub-contracting companies, most of which employ workers on contract basis.
The number of contract workers is estimated at over 12 000.
The mine is expected to start operating early 2016, when the first uranium oxide (yellowcake) will be mined.
The Chinese-owned mine is the largest entity of China in Africa and has created more than 2 000 permanent jobs in Namibia.
The US$ 2 billion worth (approximately N.dollars 23 billion) Husab mine has the potential to produce 15 million pounds of uranium oxide when fully operational.