300 Petrol Attendants Dismissed After Strike

MORE than 300 petrol attendants were fired after an industrial strike that took place last month, and the Namibia Fuel and Allied Workers’ Union (Nafawu) has blamed the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

Nafawu secretary general David Frans yesterday said he blames the ministry of labour for the mass dismissal after it declared the strike illegal on 24 July 2014 through a media statement.

The workers, from fuel stations in Windhoek, Okahandja, Oshakati and Ondangwa, were dismissed shortly after negotiations for a minimum wage were reached between the union and the Association of Service Station owners (ASSO) on 23 July after the dispute had dragged on for months.

Frans said he is now pushing the labour ministry to retract its statement with immediate effect.

“It is mind-boggling and heartbreaking to hear that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare broke the law by pronouncing the strike illegal without a court order from the relevant tribunal courts,” he said. “Therefore, we aise the ministry to withdraw its declaration and stop the mass dismissal ASSO members are busy with, or else the union shall, within 30 days, call upon all service station workers employed or unfairly dismissed and all sympathisers to embark on a general strike and petition the Office of the Prime Minister for this injustice against the vulnerable people in this country to stop.”

Frans said ASSO members were informed by the union four years ago that there was a need for a minimum wage in the petrol industry but they “either blocked their ears or did nothing about it”.

“ASSO distanced itself, claiming there was never an employers’ organisation, while they were granted an employer organisation certificate by the Office of the Labour Commissioner and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has been aware of it all along. “Now the ministry runs to declare the strike illegal,” said Frans.

Frans said Nafawu and its members followed all procedures by informing ASSO on numerous occasions.

“We could not declare a dispute with a ghost employers’ organisation with the Office of the Labour Commissioner as this does not hold water in a legal sense. Now we know ASSO is the legitimate employers’ organisation as it has agreed to represent its members in this wage forum, while all along it has been denying its responsibilities,” he said.

“The union has also learned that the labour ministry is busy sabotaging the hard-earned wage forum by inviting foreign unions with a different scope of operations to participate in the negotiations of this forum. This should not be allowed as it will delay negotiations as these unions have their own industries they are operating in and were never part of the striking workers,” he said.

Frans urged the Labour Commissioner to intervene and stop these unions from joining the forum. Labour Commissioner Bro-Mathew Shinguadja said that the union has never approached his office over the issue. “Like the ministry said in its statement, if they did not follow the right procedures, then the strike is deemed illegal.They (union) never approached my office and they know it very well. It was an unprotected strike,” he said.

Labour ministry spokesperson Paulus Ashipala denied that the ministry declared the strike illegal, saying the union should blame the employers who fired the workers as well as the union for not following the right procedures.

“We just aised that they did not follow the right procedures when they went on strike. They were supposed to get a certificate of dispute from the Labour Commissioner, which they never did. We just expressed what has been provided in the Labour Act that they should have approached the Office of the Labour Commissioner before going on strike. Also, the members never voted against the strike,” he said.

Chairperson of ASSO, Rupert Harmse, said he could not comment on the matter as he was in Johannesburg. “I will only be back later this week,” he said.

Source : The Namibian