Union Takes Another Swipe at Tycoon

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By Kuvee Kangueehi WINDHOEK The feud that has erupted between the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and the Pupkewitz Group of Companies appears to be far from over, after the NUNW took another swipe at the company – this time substantiating its claims with statistics. The Secretary General of the NUNW, Evilastus Kaaronda, vehemently brushed aside claims that “Harold Pupkewitz is a firm believer in affirmative action and that his company practices it at all his businesses.” “We have noted with deep worry the truth of evasive statements made on behalf of the companies and in response to our media statement by Pupkewitz,” said the unionist. The NUNW is also worried by the ” … arrogance of Pupkewitz telling us that it takes no less than sixteen years to train a black person to acceptable levels of competence”. “It is not only clear but regrettably true that these companies’ hostile attitude towards black people in general and black employees in particular comes from the hey-days of apartheid colonialism,” Kaaronda said He said that in June 2005, the Employment Equity Commission wrote a letter to Pupkewitz and bemoaned the decrease in the number of previously disadvantaged persons at the management level of the group and specifically noted with concern that the numerical goals the companies had set themselves were not attained. ” This of course shows that the talk of Pupkewitz on how he and his companies promote the advancement of all races is nothing but empty talk.” Quoting figures on the Pupkewitz Group of Companies Workforce Profile from an Affirmative Action Report, Kaaronda said that in December 2001, the company had nine black employees at senior supervisory levels, no black female employee compared to twenty white employees, including four white female employees. “At the senior management level, Pupkewitz had no single black employee but eighteen white employees, all of whom were white males”. At middle management level, Pupkewitz had two black employees, inclusive of one black female employee, compared to 31 white employees, inclusive of two white female employees. The media release shows that in 2003 there was only one black employee at senior managerial level compared to 14 white employees at the same level and two black employees, including a female employee, compared to 35 white employees at the same level of middle management. On the supervisory level, there were seven black employees, inclusive of one black female employee, and 30 white employees, inclusive of five white female employees. The union leader said that the employment profile took a worrying dive in the period ending December 2005, as there were no black persons employed both as executive directors and senior managers. “There are currently four white males employed as executive directors and 12 white employees as senior mangers,” he added. He further noted that in middle management there were only two black employees compared to 39 white employees at the same middle management level. The workers’ umbrella body challenged Pupkewitz and his group of companies to disprove the claims and also challenged the Namibian government to explain why government tenders are granted to these companies while they blatantly violate the laws of the country. The relationship between the union and the Pupkewitz Group of Companies seems to be deteriorating. A meeting that was meant to address the rift did not take place. Kaaronda said he was disappointed in Pupkewitz for his indifference when he refused to meet the union leadership if they were to be joined by the Shop Steward on Monday. ‘The conservative approach of Pupkewitz to industrial relations poses a serious threat to sound and harmonious labour relations in the country”. Kaaronda called on the Pupkewitz Group of Companies to open up their ownership structures to begin to reflect the country’s racial composition as opposed to it being an exclusive domain of certain white elites. Mike Hill from the Pupkewitz of Group refused to comment on the latest allegations.