Namdeb Workers Begin Strike

THE Namdeb workers’ strike started on Saturday, after two-day last-ditch talks between the union and management company, mediated by deputy labour minister Alpheus Muheua, had failed.

THE Namdeb workers’ strike started on Saturday, after two-day last-ditch talks between the union and management company, mediated by deputy labour minister Alpheus Muheua, had failed.

The deputy minister’s intervention led to the postponement of the industrial action which is estimated to cost the company an estimated N$10 million a day.

The Oranjemund MUN branch secretary for information and publicity, Mathew Nangombe, confirmed yesterday that the talks he termed as ‘informal’ failed after the union ‘rejected’ an offer made by the company.

He said the company had proposed a 10% wage increase across the board, while the workers wanted 15%. In responding to the union’s demand for 14% housing allowance, the company only offered 8.5%. In terms of the workers’ demand that the company contributes anything between 80 and 100% for medical aid, Namdeb only offered 70%.

Workers also want the company to subsidise school fees with 85%, but the company, according to Nangombe, refused this demand, saying it is not an employment condition. “The company could have, at least, suggested to subsidise 85% of our children’s school fees, and contribute 80% to our medical fund,” said Nangombe, claiming that the “the bulk of the workers’ monthly income” goes to their medical and school fees.

In an aertorial notice, Namdeb company secretary Libertha Kapere said the company’s latest offer was ‘final’.

“The company’s offer of 10% increase in wages is an extremely dangerous offer given the current CPI (consumer price index) of 6,1% and settlement levels of between 5% and 8% in the Namibian mining industry,” said Kapere.

Kapere described the medical aid issue as a “complex one” that requires decisions by companies such as Namdeb, Debmarine Namibia and NDTC.

This process, according to Kapere, will take approximately 12 months.

Because of the complexity of the medical aid issue, Kapere said the company has offered to reduce the employees’ medical aid contribution by 10% for a period of 12 months.

“Alternatively, the company offered to pay all employees a once-off, after tax cash amount of N$ 5 500 to support employees with their medical aid costs while sustainable alternatives are being sought,” Kapere added.

Kapere stressed any increase beyond the company’s current offer will have a detrimental effect on unit costs and the company’s long-term sustainability that could lead to “premature closure of parts of the mining operations”.

Source : The Namibian