Chinese Firm Claims to Have Stuck to the Rules

CHINA Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which on Wednesday suspended about 70 workers because they downed tools, says it has followed Namibia’s labour laws in all their dealings.

The Walvis Bay-based company said it has been in negotiations with the workers and the unions for some time to address concerns.

CHEC representative Haoran Liu said that about 70 of the 115 Namibians working on the N$4 billion Namport container terminal participated in the strike that started on Monday. He said the company was “completely unaware of the strike” until it started at 08h00.

“We gave the employees time until 10am on Monday to return to work but they ignored the instruction and moved over to the campsite. The union and employees did not follow procedures in notifying the company about their intention to strike. They were participating in an illegal strike,” Liu said.

The workers face disciplinary hearings today.

“CHEC will follow the Namibian Labour Act to deal with this illegal strike. We are trying our utmost best to cultivate and maintain a good working relationship with CHEC’s local employees and their union and have thus far gone out of our way to address labour issues. We had four high ranking meetings regarding the employees’ complaints and concerns two weeks ago, with all of our top managers, including our and Namport’s HR teams,” Liu said.

The company said it reached an agreement with the union to explain and resolve all the concerns and complaints.

“Each side signed the minutes of the meeting. The union also gave feedback to all the employees and we received satisfactory feedback from them last Friday. We are always very serious in treating the concerns and complaints of our employees, but we were surprised and very sorry to see that they resorted to a demonstration on Monday without any notice to us,” said Liu.

Workers claimed that they were fired without reason did not have proper work contracts and did not have any benefits or security such as pension and social security, or leave. They also complained that they did not enjoy meals or transport like their Chinese counterparts.

As for workers being fired without any reason, Liu referred to one incident where a worker, who allegedly stole from CHEC’s campsite. “He is now in police custody, waiting to be prosecuted”.

Liu said the company signed fixed contracts with every employee and depending on the work involved, level of skill required and the expected duration of a specific task, the contracts vary between three months, six months and 12 months.

He said that most of the general workers got three-month contracts, simply due to the amount of general work required during this phase of the project.

“As you are aware, the new container terminal is the largest port construction project in Namibia’s history. To take the construction part as an example, the construction process can be divided into different components, which require different disciplines, and different construction periods. These differences also result in different contracts,” said Liu.

Source : The Namibian