WAD Plans to Go Ahead with Lawsuit against NUNW

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The rather strange battle between the Secretary-General of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), Evilastus Kaaronda, and the Executive Director of the Women’s Action for Development, Veronica de Klerk, resumed yesterday after Kaaronda accused WAD of practising a discriminatory policy against unmarried pregnant employees. Kaaronda was reacting to a WAD memorandum, which stated that “the organization will not pay bonuses to those staff members who have babies out of wedlock”. In the memorandum issued on September 29, 2005, De Klerk explained that WAD had decided to implement the policy because full-time WAD Trainers and Coordinators were expected to train young people to curb teenage pregnancies, which has become a social evil. She noted that such trainers were acting against their own training programmes while training young people, and are embarrassing the organization, and their actions will therefore not be tolerated. De Klerk argued further in the memorandum that the continuous pregnancies out of wedlock were burdening the organization with additional maternity leave expenses, which are not budgeted for. “For every employee who takes maternity leave, a person has to be appointed in her place for three months, which causes additional expenses for the organization.” However, Kaaronda said, the NUNW is utterly disturbed by WAD’s argument, especially since it is coming from an organization that purports to represent women. “This we believe is sheer hypocrisy and a bad policy.” The NUNW demanded that this bad policy be annulled with immediate effect and that, where relevant, employees who were discriminated against be compensated. “We would also remind the board of directors of its responsibility towards all employees of WAD regardless of such employees’ social status or positions in WAD.” Kaaronda said it is unlawful to discriminate against anybody on the grounds of one’s social status. Referring to the lawsuit which WAD has taken against the NUNW, the latter stated that they and all progressive movements are not – and can never be – strangers to lawsuits and all other such related intimidations. “We survived such intimidation during the darkest days of colonialism as all bad employers during their heyday of apartheid would behave in a manner and say nothing different from what is purported to be done by WAD’s board.” Kaaronda also lashed out at the WAD board, saying it is unbelievable that a board of a non-governmental organization would disregard legitimate concerns of employees and would rather want to support legal action against the workers’ organization. Contacted for comment, De Klerk said that, although the policy was in place, it was never enforced and thus did not affect any worker negatively. She noted that the memorandum was only sent out for educational reasons to discourage their trainers from falling pregnant before marriage. “We did not want our trainers to have children that are half orphans – without a father – and it was a way of discouraging them.” The Executive Director also stated that, in terms of the Labour Act, bonuses are a privilege, a fact that should be appreciated and respected. She added that the memorandum was sent out after a planning and training week for the trainers. WAD has consulted their lawyers, and they plan to go ahead with the lawsuit for defamation of character for referring to her as “cruel and inhuman”, she added. De Klerk further noted that it would appear that Kaaronda was waging a personal vendetta against her for reasons he should explain. “Our case is therefore aimed at Kaaronda and the NUNW, and he has to prove that his defamatory pronouncements against me bear substance”. She added that the suggestion that WAD’s successes are doubtful, is another example of Kaaronda’s ignorance about the work being done by WAD.