Chinese Company Suspends Nam Workers

THE Chinese company contracted to build the Namport container terminal at Walvis Bay yesterday suspended workers who went on strike on Monday.

More than 70 workers employed by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), downed tools demanding better working conditions.

The workers have been suspended pending disciplinary hearings that are expected to be held tomorrow.

Afrisay Group Holdings, which deals with CHEC’s human resources issues, confirmed the suspensions, saying the matter would be dealt with according to the rules laid out in the Labour Act.

Mathew Kapere, the workers’ spokesperson, yesterday said the company had notified them of the suspensions based on reasons such as participating in an illegal strike and tarnishing the name of the company.

Kapere said the workers grievances include the fact that 18 Namibian workers have been fired since May “for no reasons at all” because this compromised their job security.

“There’s no contract. There is no sick leave, social security, medical aid, compassionate pay, pension – nothing. The project is said to take three years but we are employed on a month-to-month basis. When the term is over, there is no guarantee that we will get the job back, even if [the employer] says that the position is still there. They will just give it to another [person],” he said.

Afrisay Group Holdings spokesperson, Charlotte Solomons, however, disputed Kapere’s claims saying the workers had three-month contracts with a one-week probation period.

“The employees signed contracts. They know this and when their terms come to an end, they know they will not have work. CHEC has been forthcoming though, and would ask the workers if they were still available for reinstatement,” she said.

She also said the 18 people, whom Kapere said were fired, left when their contracts expired. “Their contract ended when construction on the company campsite was completed.”Some of the workers were standing outside the company’s premises yesterday after they had been locked out for the day when The Namibian visited.

Speaking to The Namibian, some of the workers said they were not sure of what would happen at the disciplinary hearing. They also said they would not be surprised if they lose their jobs because they have no contracts.

In addition, the workers said they had lost faith in the Metal and Allied Workers’ Union (Manwu).

“We are in limbo. We are replaceable because we have no contracts. We are professionals like welders and carpenters but we are all considered as general workers,” one worker said.The workers also claimed that they do not get transport or meals, while their Chinese counterparts do so.

Solomons, however, said there was a labour agreement between the company, the Metal and Allied Workers’ Union (Manwu) and the workers regarding certain benefits, including transport.

She said that the company was in the process of acquiring buses to transport the workers from their homes to the site. Other possible benefits are still apparently in the process of being discussed as per Labour Act requirements.Manwu Walvis Bay branch organiser Enwich Kazondu refused to provide more information yesterday other than saying: “We are busy speaking to the company and can’t comment until we’ve done so.”

CHEC representative Haoran Liu acknowledged receiving questions from The Namibian and said he would respond, but had not done so by the time of going to print.

Source : The Namibian