NovaNam to Reinstate Fired Workers

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Following high-level talks involving the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, fishing group NovaNam has reversed its decision that saw 356 workers being fired over an illegal strike. St Valentine’s Day would now assume a new meaning as the workers whose en-masse dismissal made recent headlines would start working again next Tuesday. The controversial dismissal took place on January 23 allegedly after the workers participated in an unlawful strike that allegedly nearly financially crippled the LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz-based fishing company in October last year. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare engaged the company in talks that culminated in a Re-engagement Agreement that was signed by the company and trade union representatives. With the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare representing Government during the signing ceremony, Fisheries Minister Dr Abraham Iyambo described the closed door meeting that took place on Monday as “tough”. During the negotiations, it was agreed that NovaNam’s management withdraws its initial decision to dismiss the 356 workers accused of having participated in the illegal strike. The decision comes with a string of terms and conditions and is considered as the final settlement. Iyambo together with the Deputy Minister of Labour Petrus Iilonga and other authorities are expected to travel to LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz on Thursday where a meeting with the affected workers would be held. “We will go there to explain step by step what was discussed during the negotiations,” the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister said. On Friday, the workers found guilty as charged are expected to sign a letter of acceptance of terms and conditions. The meeting will take place at the coastal Marine Industries premises at 10h00 in the morning. A final written warning for 12 months from the date of commencement of work, which is February 14 2006 will be issued to these employees. The agreement reveals that there will be no back pay inclusive of bonuses for the 356 employees from January 23, the date of the suspension to the time of commencement of work. NovaNam is prepared to contribute 50 per cent less towards pension benefits for the next twelve months starting from the day the employees will resume work. “No back pay towards pension benefits for the period employees have been on suspension till the day they commence work. All 356 employees will be covered for disability and death benefits for the twelve-month period,” states the agreement. After the 356 workers were found guilty in November last year, representatives of unions made certain appeals. The issue was discussed during negotiations that the Namibia Food and Allied Workers’ Union (NAFAU) and the Namibian Seaman Allied Workers Union (NASAWU) withdraw the appeals lodged against the judgement of the presiding officer of the disciplinary hearing and the subsequent decision of the company to dismiss the workers. Minister Iyambo commended the Union and NovaNam management for resolving the issue to the satisfaction of both parties. He also cautioned that no one would be allowed to instigate workers or to fuel existing tensions. He described the negotiations as fruitful and that no one had come out as a winner or loser, adding that the illegal strike was an embarrassment to the Government.