17 Oct 2013 10:50am
KEETMANSHOOP, 17 OCT (NAMPA) Grape workers at the Komsberg Grape Farm near Ariamsvlei are complaining that the management is charging them N.dollars 40 for transport with a company motor-vehicle to the nearest clinic.
The clinic where sick employees are transported to is at the Ariamsvlei settlement, situated some 60 kilometres away.
Komsberg employs more than 200 people, and lies south of Ariamsvlei along the Orange River in the //Karas Region.
Three employees, who spoke to Nampa on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization, said sick employees register and pay cash every Wednesday so that a company vehicle can transport them.
It is not fair that they are making us pay cash when we need to go to the clinic. If it was not a company vehicle, then maybe we would understand, a female employee said in a telephonic interview on Thursday.
A male employee added that should the company wish to charge for transport, then they must arrange for monthly deductions, instead of asking for cash.
We cannot afford to pay cash every time that we are sick, because we also have to pay the medical contribution at the clinic, he explained.
The workers also indicated that in most cases, employees have to borrow money from each other to avoid being left behind as the driver allegedly refuses to take employees who cannot pay.
They further stated that the charge is not part of their contracts of employment, and they never agreed to it, but they have no option but to pay and receive transport.
We raised the issue with the Namibia Farmworkers Union (NAFWU) earlier this year, but they did not give us any feedback yet. We really want this situation to stop, fumed another woman.
Contacted telephonically for comment, Komsberg Farming General Manager Jannie Thiart said if the workers have a problem with the charges, they must approach NAFWU.
Thiart then accused the employees of pretending to be going to the clinic, but instead travelling to Ariamsvlei to buy alcohol which they consumed at the farm, something he does not approve.
He later backtracked, and threatened to sue this news agency for publishing any article on the employees complaints regarding the transport charges.
I cannot speak to you anymore, I have a lot of work. If you want to talk, come to my office so that we can sit down and talk.
If you publish anything, I will take you to court, he said before dropping the phone.
On his part, NAFWUs Acting General Secretary Rocco Nguvauva confirmed to Nampa that the transport charge complaints were indeed raised with his office.
He said the union is in the process of arranging a meeting with the Komsberg management to get to the root of the matter.
Nguvauva indicated that he will drive to the South next week to discuss the labour issues affecting farmworkers.
The unionist expressed his disapproval regarding the transport charges, saying providing transport is the responsibility of the employer and Komsberg are thus not supposed to be charging employees for that.
There is no way an employer can charge workers for transport to a clinic. All companies are providing free transport for their employees, why should Komsberg be allowed to charge for it?
What is so special about them? We will fight for these employees not to pay for transport anymore, the unionist promised.