Employees Report Company to Labour Ministry

The employees of Willie Fourie Annemarie (WFA) Construction, a company in Rundu, are at loggerheads with the company’s management over alleged unfavourable working conditions and starvation wages, a situation that prompted the workers to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

The ministry confirmed that a complaint was indeed filed.

Allegations range from alleged mistreatment, low salaries and failure on the part of the company to provide employees with safety gear.

Workers say they are instructed to clear land for a housing project without any protective clothing such as gloves, sun hats or even overalls.

While the company denied all allegations, one of the workers told New Era that the employees were requested to provide details such as shoe and clothing sizes, which would apparently be catered for by the company.

The workers also claim they were threatened and intimidated by one of the company’s managers for speaking to the media.

The workers at WFA claim they have no safety gear and are expected to acquire their own materials or work without them, even though their employer has promised they would be supplied. The workers also allege they suffer sore hands from the work.

“We only get paid when we work. We didn’t sign any contract whatsoever and were told we will only sign a contract after three months,” said one worker, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Following New Era’s queries last month (October), the company tried in vain to stop this publication from running the story and promised the workers that their demands would be met in terms of higher wages and safety gear.

The company then presented workers with a contract in which they promised better conditions.

According to employees, signed contracts stipulate they will receive N$200 per day for work on a 100-metre ditch but to their surprise they only received N$150 for October. According to workers they were each supposed to get N$2 000.

“Our hands are sore from labour that we are undertaking and there is too much dust when we dig. We are scared that we might get sick,” complained another worker.

Muteto John Kafita, Senior Labour Inspector for the Ministry of Labour in Rundu, said he visited the site and described the situation on the ground as “bad”.

“The situation at the site is bad, two of the workers at WFA were bitten by snakes because they don’t have safety gear (boots)” Kafita said.

He added that they had a meeting with WFA about the working conditions on site.

Kafita warned the company’s management that it runs the risk of being closed down if it does not meet the demands of workers.

“The company cannot make the workers work without safety gear and they should comply with the minimum wage law,” he said.

The representative of WFA Construction, Zayne Koorts, said that their employer ordered protective clothing from Windhoek and was waiting for the suppliers to brand the respective items. He said this takes time and asked employees to be patient.

“We are under the further impression that the said employees also complained about their wages. We once again assure you that employees are being paid more than the prescribed minimum wage as per Government Gazette of 19 June 2012,” said Koorts.

Source : New Era