Supermarket Retrenches Dozens of Workers

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By Francs Tsawayo WINDHOEK Auas Valley Friendly Supermarket, a subsidiary of Metro Cash & Carry, last Tuesday retrenched over 30 workers in a highly unpopular move that prompted the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) to intervene. At a press conference, Nafau’s acting secretary General Kiros Sackarias said he had contacted the management of the group of companies to inform them of the handing over of a petition. Last Friday, the retrenched workers and union representatives marched from the Auas Valley supermarket to the Friendly Wholesaler in Prosperita Park to hand over a petition to the management of the group. In the petition handed to the operations manager Phillip Nell by the representative of the retrenched workers Natasha Gaoses, Nafau strongly condemned the actions of the group and demanded an explanation. Reading out the demands before handing over the petition, Gaoses said: “We want an explanation …. We want a clearance as to who is the owner of the business and our employer.” The petition also called for management to try and find ways to redeploy retrenched employees in sister companies. The final demand was that the company takes responsibility by ensuring that the dismissed group are treated fairly and are employed. Though he promised to give a response after going through the contents of the petition, Nell declined to give further comment. The closure of the supermarket remains a mystery and the Nafau acting secretary general Sackarias dismissed claims that the business was making a loss as well as that the rental fees for the premises were not affordable. According to Gaoses they were only notified at closing hours that their services had been terminated and a notice of termination was issued. The notice outlined the conditions of the workers’ packages which were listed as: – Four weeks notice pay as from the 2nd of August 2006. – Severance pay equal to one week’s remuneration of each completed year of service. – Outstanding leave. – Overtime owed. And that during the four weeks of notice period, a limited number of key personnel would be required to shut down the operations. The selected employees have since rejected this offer in solidarity with fellow colleagues, Sackarias said. According to the secretary general the union received a letter at 15:16 on Tuesday informing that the business would shut down at the close of business on that day. ‘The employees were still unaware of what was going on around them until when I arrived with one of our branch organisers,” said the unionist. “We contacted the sales manager who was available to inquire about what was going on but the answers were unfortunately unacceptable.” Speaking sternly Sackarias regarded the action of this nature as tantamount to gambling with peoples’ livelihoods and feelings. “Such actions are tantamount to playing with people’s livelihoods as it has psychological and emotional negative impacts,” he added. The employees are strongly of the view that their employer had long not played ball hence they are not surprised by the manner they have been treated by Auas Valley Friendly Supermarket, he stated. ” The union considers the action of the company as disgraceful and a bad labour practice that needs to be exposed to the public,” Sackarias said. Sackarias assured the union would get to the bottom of issue and promised that he would personally attend to the matter. Sackrias also noted that he had requested for a structure of the company and the contracts signed by the employees, as he would want to assess the contents personally. He warned that NAFAU would not stand by and watch unacceptable and irresponsible actions by employers. “It is enough, how long will we as workers continue to suffer and be the only vulnerable in any event.” Sackarias reminded employers that privileges were not for a few only but for all, hence he urged that “people must not turn a blind eye on the situation, that needs the attention of everybody”.