Namdeb Strike Costs N$10 Million a Day

THE strike by Namdeb workers that started on Saturday over salaries will cost the government and the company N$10 million per day.

Addressing a press conference in Windhoek yesterday, Namdeb chief executive officer Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi said the strike is expected to cost the government N$6 million per day in taxes and royalties, while the company will also lose N$4 million.

More than 745 workers, with the backing of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia, went on strike after rejecting the 7,5% to 8,5% salary increase offered by the company on Friday.

The union and Namdeb reached a deadlock even after the deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Alphaumlus Muheua, had tried to intervene to resolve the dispute.

The union has been negotiating with Namdeb since November 2013, demanding a 15% increase, while the company is offering 7,5% and 8,5% for bands A, B and C. Additionally the union is requesting a 14% housing allowance, while Namdeb merely offers 8.5% in this regard. The union is also demanding a 100% company contribution in Medical Aid and 85% in school subsidies.

Zaamwani-Kamwi said the company’s offer surpasses the salary settlements reached at other mines in the country but MUN rejected the offer.

“During the mediation efforts, the company revised its offer to 10% on basic wages for all employees, as well as an additional 10% contribution by the company to employees’ medical aid,” she said.

She also said the strike affects most of the operations at Namdeb, with an estimated loss of approximately N$10 million in revenue per day. “Namdeb is an aging mine. The strategic focus of my management team has, for the last five years, been to break new frontiers in efforts to find innovative ways to prolong the life of the operations and ensure a sustainable future for the benefit of Namibia and its people. “In fact, as far as we know, Namdeb may well be the oldest operating alluvial diamond mine in the wold, giving testimony to the incredible efforts over the years to keep this aging mine in operation,” she said.

However, Zaamwani-Kamwi said the strike might deal a severe blow to the gallant efforts of the company. She said in comparison to its peers in the mining industry, Namdeb employees currently earn above the 75th percentile.

“The lowest paid employee earns a basic salary of N$5 790. In addition to this, the company pays other allowances, bringing the total (minimum) cash package to N$5 900,” she said. Zaamwani-Kamwi added that workers enjoy other benefits such as free housing and utitlities, as well as subsidised school fees for their children.

In addition, she said the company has a closed medical aid scheme with members being employees and pensioners of Namdeb, Debmarine and Namibia Diamond Trading Company only. “Any charges to the scheme impact all three companies. The current medical aid contribution is 60% for the company and 40% for employees. The lowest paid employee, married with two children, would pay N$1 400 per month and the company contributes N$2 107 per month. “Management recognises that the current scheme might not be sustainable in the long run. We believe the provision of medical aid is a critical value proposition for our employees, and we would like to engage subject matter experts to review our medical aid structures, such that an alternative is found which will alleviate the escalating costs for employees, and reduce their contribution,” she said.

She explained, however, that the matter cannot be concluded overnight and the company has asked the MUN to allow for a twelve-months period to allow subject matter experts to provide them with an alternative. “However, this has been rejected by the MUN,” she said.

Zaamwani-Kamwi said that the company remains committed to finding an amicable solution to the current dispute and continue to communicate with employees in an effort to bring the strike to an end as soon as possible.

Namdeb general manager Riaan Burger said he was saddened by the current turn of events. “I know that Namibia cannot afford this. We face immense socioeconomic challenges across the country and I have always taken pride in the knowledge that Namdeb plays a vital role in creating wealth for Namibia to address these challenges,” he said, adding that the strike was unwelcome, not only for the company and its operations, but for the country.

Source : The Namibian