Disgruntled Novanam Workers Hold Demonstration

Over 300 NovaNam workers in Luumlderitz under the Namibia Seaman and Allied Workers’ Union (NASAWU) on Tuesday protested against the recruitment of foreigners by the fishing giant.

Workers who at lunchtime on Tuesday demonstrated peacefully only went back to work after they handed over a petition listing their grievances to NovaNam’s industrial relations officer Persca Mafale.

Mafale promised to hand the petition to NovaNam management for action. One of the grievances is that in 2013 when workers wanted their tea breaks to be increased from 15 minutes to 30 minutes the Pescanova fishing subsidiary scrapped tea breaks altogether with no reason given.

Workers also stated they failed to understand why NovaNam kept a Namibian as an understudy for more than 10 years in its employment but on the other hand in 2014 the company brought in a foreigner to work as a senior supervisor responsible for its fleet, production, administration and finance department.

Workers asked how this worker was able to get a work permit and what experience did this expatriate possess to be able to supervise them 25 years after independence.

They say all senior positions at NovaNam are occupied by Spaniards and the only top position headed by a Namibian is that of manager for human resources and industrial relations.

The company has a policy on grievance guidelines but when the workers lodge grievances against managers or their supervisors, nothing ever happens and in most cases workers were dismissed when they have lodged a complaint against one of their supervisors.

Workers further accused NovaNam of having one of the highest dismissal rates in the fishing sector as it apparently dismissed a record 98 percent of workers cited for disciplinary hearings. Workers also have difficulty understanding why at NovaNam its so-called permanent and temporary staff who were trained to operate specialised fishing machinery are not paid salaries commensurate with the work.

According to workers the last employees to be employed on a permanent basis were recruited in 2009. To date the company has dismissed more than 500 permanent workers, while more than 100 permanent workers went on retirement and more than 300 permanent workers have resigned, they say.

NovaNam currently employs 1 200 temporary workers. The memo pasted on the notice board instructing nurses and doctors at a private hospital not to book the company’s workers without the company’s permission also bewilders workers.

NovaNam workers are now demanding production workers should without further delay be allowed to go on tea breaks and that foreign workers be sent back to Spain without delay and that their jobs be given to Namibians.

They have also appealed to the Employment Equity Commissioner Vilbard Usiku to investigate the breach of EEC requirements by NovaNam.

They further want the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to stop the recruitment of foreigners and to stop issuing work permits to foreigners, “because this only serves to condemn Namibians to being given menial jobs with starvation wages”. They urged their employer to stop exploiting them under the ruse of employing them as casual workers and they want permanent dignified jobs like the ones given to expatriates.

They also want the company to fill all vacancies existing because of dismissals, resignations, retirement and death. They have also condemned NovaNam for having what they say is a race-based pay structure whereby black workers are paid less compared to other races.

In this vein they asked NovaNam to implement the policy of same work value.

Petrus Shiyandj the NASAWU regional organizer informed the workers that they would give NovaNam management five working days to come back with satisfactory answers or they would continue with demonstrations.

Workers also want an explanation from the Employment Equity Commissioner and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.

When contacted for comment Manu Namukomba who is the HR manager stated they have not yet gone through the petition but will only respond once they have studied the petition.

Source : New Era