Husab’s Illegal Strike Over As Negotiations Continue

THE strike of about 200 workers of the Group Five Contractors at Swakop Uranium’s Husab, which took place due to Namibian workers’ concerns that foreigners were taking over their work, has ended for now.

According to Swakop Uranium’s vice president for human resources and business support Percy McCallum, the strike was illegal, even though it was ‘peaceful’.

“A number of work-related issues were raised by the Group Five employees, which led to discussions between the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Manwu) and Group Five during the week, and both parties have undertaken to continue discussing any outstanding issues,” McCallum told The Namibian on Friday. “Swakop Uranium continues to encourage and support the Manwu and Group Five discussions to ensure solutions reached to the satisfaction of both parties.”

Contrary to workers’ reports that their foreign colleagues were forced to stay at the ‘Husab Village’ workers’ camp, McCullum said that “no foreigners were stopped to go to work”.

On Friday all the parties, including Manwu, were in negotiations.

“We are all working now and just waiting for them to give us answers,” a worker said on Friday.

Workers of the Group Five company, which is one of the main contractors responsible for the construction of infrastructure at Husab mine’s production plant, downed tools on Thursday saying they no longer want foreigners employed in positions that Namibians could fill.

It is understood that one of the major points to be negotiated on is the reduction of the foreign complement of the Group Five company to 25% to make way for Namibians to fill the positions.

Manwu general secretary Justina Jonas said that the issue of Group Five employing foreigners has been debated since the company started work at the mine last October. “Originally, the focus was to bring foreigners to do work that Namibians could not do, but they went overboard and got foreigners doing work that locals are trained to do like welding, boilermaking, crane operations and other engineering work. Erongo is an engineering region and we train Namibians accordingly.

There are now more foreigners than Namibians. This is absurd and an embarrassment to the Namibian government,” she told The Namibian last week.

The foreign workers include Thai, Filipino and Ghanaian nationals, according to Jonas.

There are currently more than 4 000 contractor employees doing construction work on the mine to prepare for production early next year. Husab is expected to be one of the biggest uranium mines in the world and its products will be used to mainly feed China’s nuclear power needs.

Source : The Namibian