Strike Meeting Hangs in Balance

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK A meeting to resolve the ongoing strike at the Rosh Pinah zinc/lead mine – planned for Friday – hangs in the balance due to unhappiness among local union leaders over the manner in which the company approached the union. According to union officials, management at Rosh Pinah apparently sent invitations to attend the meeting in Windhoek to handpick local and national MUN leaders. These include local branch chairperson Petrus Amakali, regional chairperson Silas Antonius, General-Secretary Joseph Hengari and MUN president Andreas Eiseb. Branch chairperson Petrus Amakali strongly objected to this, saying it is not up to Rosh Pinah Zinc to dictate who should represent the union at the meeting, or where the meeting should be held. He accused the company of deliberately trying to break union leaders away from their members. “When we are on strike is not the time to be away from our members, and if there is any meeting to take place, it must take place at Rosh Pinah. We will not leave our members,” he said. It is understood the proposed Friday meeting in Windhoek was to include representatives from Rosh Pinah’s South African parent Kumba Resources – formerly known as Iscor Mining. A meeting was held between the two parties on Tuesday after union leaders initially refused to attend an earlier meeting scheduled for Monday. MUN refused to attend the Monday meeting, accusing the company of using scabs to do the work of striking workers in contravention of directives from the Labour Commissioner’s office. The Tuesday meeting was only possible after the company apparently agreed to stop using replacement workers. Amakali said there is now a consultation meeting every morning to check what contractors are going to be working on site. The aim is to ensure they are not doing the work of striking union members. He said the Tuesday meeting however failed to yield any result because the company failed to come up with a new offer. At the meeting Rosh Pinah tried to convince employees the offer of a 9% increase for lower grades, and an 8% across-the-board increase for other grades is “fair and reasonable”. “We don’t want to be convinced, and we told them to call back when they have something to offer,” Amakali said. MUN is negotiating a 14% increase for employees on lower grades, 13% for workers in the middle grades and 12% for higher grades. Kumba Resources General Manager for Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, Trevor Arran, could not immediately comment on the arrangements surrounding Friday’s proposed meeting. He said he first needed to consult their industrial relations people at Rosh Pinah, but that in any case it is not the policy of the company to debate labour relations in the media.