Dairy farm employees unhappy with working conditions

UVHUNGU-VHUNGU: Employees re-constructing the Uvhungu-Vhungu dairy farm on the eastern outskirts of Rundu are unhappy with their working conditions at the site, and temporarily downed tools on Wednesday.

The Gecko Mining Company was awarded the tender to reconstruct the first and second phases of the multi-million-dollar dairy farm.

The dairy farm is being reconstructed after it was closed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in November 2009 because it was not being managed properly.

Also, equipment on the farm, such as the milking parlour and animal kraals, deteriorated.

Some 80 workers temporarily boycotted work on Wednesday after discovering that they were not paid according to the hours worked.

Some employees claim their employer deducted as much as N.dollars 1 000 from their salaries without their knowledge.

The employees further said the company has failed to provide workers with clean drinking water or toilet facilities since construction began about eight months ago.

One of the employees told this reporter on condition of anonymity during the temporary work stoppage that they have been forced to drink dirty water from the Okavango River.

Untreated water from that river is unhygienic, and poses a health risk.

Workers also said they are forced to use the nearby bushes when nature calls, while some opt to relieve themselves in open spaces.

Approached for comment, Gecko project manager Gary Ives told this agency on Thursday that the employees are paid hourly.

They were thus not paid accordingly because they did not correctly fill in their working hours on their time-sheets.

“We have been speaking about this for a couple of months, and they chose to ignore it,” he stressed.

The manager indicated that not all employees were affected, as some filled in their time-sheets correctly.

Ives said the affected workers have been given an opportunity to rectify their time-sheets by Tuesday next week.

With regards to drinking water, he stated that that the water being provided to the workers is treated with chlorine tablets.

However, the workers have apparently opted not to use that water for reasons only known to themselves.

The company has also availed a 5 000-litre tank of drinking water for the workers.

On the lack of toilet facilities, he said the company has indeed erected an ablution block for males and females on the construction site, but workers have chosen not to utilise those, apparently because they are too far.

Ives stressed that the company has a complaint form in place, but has not received a single complaint regarding drinking water and toilet facilities from the workers.