Al Dhahra drivers not happy with payment

22 Nov 2013 10:10am
NAUTE DAM, 22 NOV (NAMPA) – Drivers employed at the Al Dhahra and NDC Palm Development at the Naute Dam near Keetmanshoop are complaining that they are being paid at the same rate as labourers working at the project.
The date and grape project involves a joint partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Al-Dhahra Agricultural Company and the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC).
Some drivers who spoke to Nampa on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs on Friday said five tractor drivers and over 60 labourers are being paid N.dollars 65 a day, excluding overtime.
The workers said overtime payments also only apply ‘sometimes’, and for that they are expected to work nine hours, for which they are paid N.dollars 10,83 per hour.
“It is exploitation! How can they pay us the same money as the labourers? There should be a difference because we have Code Eight drivers’ licenses,” a male driver complained.
Another issue they are not happy with is the fact that some employees have allegedly been working for the company on a temporary basis for over two years.
“People who have been here for two years are still working on contract. The contracts are renewed every month-end. We want the union to come and listen to our problems, maybe they can help us get answers from management,” another man stated.
They also alleged that the labourers are sometimes made to work 12 or more hours a day, of which only nine are paid for.
“Last Saturday, we worked for 12 hours, but only nine were recorded. The manager told us the rest of the hours will be added to other days.
We do not understand what he meant by that, because until now he did not pay us the money for those hours,” a female worker told this news agency.
Workers in addition allege that when they question irregularities, they are told that they can quit if they are not happy with their conditions of employment.
Efforts to get comment from the Al-Dhahra Agricultural Company's Namibian Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Abdulkadir Yousuf Saleh, failed on Wednesday and Thursday.
A woman who this news agency managed to speak to at the company also would not comment, only saying she does not want to do so.
Approached for comment, the Namibia Farmworkers’ Union (Nafwu)’s acting General Secretary Rocco Nguvauva said he is not aware of such complaints.
He, however, promised to visit the date project, and listen to the workers’ grievances.
“I am on my way from Aussenkehr to Noordoewer on a consultation visit to listen to members’ grievances and find solutions.
Now that you have informed me about the complaints, although it was not in my schedule, I will consider visiting them, even tomorrow,” he said.
The Control Labour Inspector for the //Karas and Hardap Regions, Imelda Mwangala could not comment on whether the drivers’ complaints regarding payments are valid as she said there is no minimum wage for farmworkers.
Therefore, it is difficult to say whether the drivers are being underpaid.
“It depends on what the employer and the employee agreed on. There is no minimum wage for farmworkers,” Mwangala stated.