City of Windhoek Responds to Ex-contractor’s Claims

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Please allow me space in your newspaper to place the claims made by the City’s ex-contractor’s claims reported on NBC television during the news on January 14, 2007. Some of the claims about the salaries currently earned are not known to the City, as the newly-created Employer/Employee relationships are not governed by the City. It should be pointed out that claims the City is responding to are as reported on NBC television and have not been independently verified. As a background for those not familiar with the matter, the City of Windhoek had undertaken a re-alignment of its Solid Waste Management Structure and appointed 16 Ward Contractors, charged with keeping our City clean as Independent Contractors or business entities. Claims will be dealt with as follows: 1. It was claimed that contractors are now being offered one- or two-year contracts, whereas at the City they had five-year contracts. The fact is that each private contractor, while contracted to the City of Windhoek, entered into a two-year contract with the City to perform functions related to open space and street cleaning. In some instances, Private Contractors may have applied for and won a new contract following the expiry of the two-year contract, but at no time was any Private Contractor offered a contract with a contract period exceeding two years. The five-year contract alluded to is thus not a true reflection of the Private Contractor’s relationship with the City of Windhoek. The City can further not comment on the employment contracts offered by the Ward Contractors, as they are private entities running their own businesses. Although there is speculation that some employees have been appointed on fixed-term contracts of 12 months, there is also speculation that some have been appointed on fixed term contracts of two years and longer. 2. Another claim made was that at the City, the Ward Contractors were earning at least N$2ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 per month, while at the Contractors they are earning N$1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 300, while the workload remained the same. When previously contracted to the City of Windhoek, before entering into a contract with a Private Contractor, details of payment were clearly explained by the City. The Private Contractor was offered N$96.00 per day for work done from Monday to Friday, and N$144 in case of work done during the weekends or on public holidays. On average, a Private Contractor could earn N$1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 920 on a monthly basis (N$96 x 20) plus any payment for additional work done on weekends and/or public holidays. Because of their status as independent contractors, the Private Contractors did not enjoy employee benefits such as medical aid, pension, social security, workman’s compensation and transport allowance. It was the understanding that provision was made in their payment for them to acquire their own benefits as the City of Windhoek did not offer employee benefits to its contractors. It was expected that the Private Contractors would allocate 10-20% of their payment to these causes, but this was totally in the domain of the Contractor. As Contractors, each Private contractor also had to provide for their own personal protective clothing such as overalls, protective shoes, masks, raincoats as well as the tools required to perform the work such as brooms, rakes, spades, black bags, reflective cones. These were provided by the City of Windhoek, but recovered monthly from their remuneration, at cost. These deductions amounted to anything from N$100 to N$200 per month. From the “allegations” it is understood that, as employees of the Ward Contractors, the “Private Contractors” (now employees) earn in the region of N$1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 200-N$1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 300, but with employee benefits added and personal protective clothing and tools at no additional cost to them as employees. This figure cannot be confirmed or denied, as it forms part of an Employer/Employee relationship to which the City is not a party. Under this relationship, employees enjoy benefits as stipulated in the Labour Act including sick and annual leave not previously granted to them as contractors. Therefore, although the net earnings might be less, there are added benefits, whilst as private contractors all the benefits and equipment still had to be catered for from the gross amount received from the City. 3. Another claim was that the City had promised the Contractors a three-months’ pay in advance, probably severance pay. They were subsequently told that the City did not have the money to pay this. The truth, however, is that at information sessions held with the Private Contractors during the development of the Ward Contractor System, some Private Contractors enquired whether the City of Windhoek was going to compensate them upon expiry of their contracts for their contribution in keeping the city clean. It was clearly communicated to them that as contractors they did not qualify for any severance payment or compensation of any kind, and that the City had not made provision nor availed money to this effect. It is important to note that these are not the first and only contractors of the City of Windhoek whose contracts expired. Exactly the same procedures were followed as at the expiration of any contract. The only difference would be that the City strongly recommended to the new Ward Contractors to take these Contractors on as employees, as they knew the work and the areas concerned. Also, the demands for severance payment cannot be met because the relationship between the City of Windhoek and the Private Contractor was not an Employer-Employee relationship but merely that of Employer-Contractor. 4. It was also noted that the Contractors referred to themselves as “City Employees”. It should, however, be made clear that the relationship between the City of Windhoek and the Private Contractor was governed by a contract which categorically indicated the City of Windhoek to be the Employer and the Private Contractor to be an Independent Contractor, and that this relationship would cease to exist upon expiration of such period, which happened to be on September 30, 2006. 5. Another claim made was that the Medical Aid received from the Contractor is inadequate and does not cover their families. They did not say, but the implication was that they had received medical aid from the City, which was better. The fact is that the City of Windhoek did not offer any medical aid to the Private Contractors and this was previously one of the demands raised by the Private Contractors. The City of Windhoek is under the understanding that, as employees (now), they are entitled to medical aid which they previously did not have. The City of Windhoek, however, is not in a position to prescribe to the Ward Contractors (private entities) the type and level of medical aid cover their employees should be offered as this is a provision which forms part of the agreement between the Ward Contractor and its employees. 6. It was also claimed that the Contracts were awarded to employees in senior supervisory positions. The fact is that the newly appointed Ward Contractors were Municipal employees who were supervisors of the Private Contractors and who were the best-suited candidates, given their knowledge and experience in related operational matters and taking their educational background into consideration. The City of Windhoek had undertaken a re-alignment of its Solid Waste Management Structure and, as a result, some of these Senior Supervisory Positions became redundant. All such affected Employees were offered positions of redeployment at equal level positions, or asked to express interest in becoming contractors under certain predetermined conditions. In line with its empowerment aims, 16 such employees were selected and subjected to entrepreneurial training and, with assistance from City of Windhoek, KIA Motors, Standard Bank Namibia and the Polytechnic of Namibia, were established as Close Corporations to enter the business world as Employers rather than Employees. These Employees, although offered positions of redeployment, all opted for voluntary resignation from the services of the City of Windhoek. In conclusion, the City of Windhoek recognizes the contribution made by the Private Contractors in maintaining the City’s reputation of being one of the cleanest cities and their commitment as contractors, and has therefore encouraged the Ward Contractors to recruit their employees from among the 282 Private Contractors previously on contract to the City of Windhoek. Of the 282 Private contractors, 257 (91%) are currently employed by the Ward Contractors. As a local authority, considerations given during the development of a system, such as the Ward Contractor system, always centres around efficiency and affordability of service provision to our customer, the resident of Windhoek. At the same time, there are other aspects to be considered, such as economic development of the residents in line with the City of Windhoek’s Local Economic Development initiatives. The implementation of the Ward Contractor System is an effort by the City to empower people through economic and entrepreneurial development. The Ward Contractor system is an empowerment vehicle through which Namibian citizens (seven ladies and nine men, all from previously disadvantaged groups), have been given an opportunity to own and run their own businesses, thereby generating employment for fellow residents. One of the objectives of Vision 2030 is “to develop diversified, competent and highly productive human resources and institutions, fully utilizing human potential and achieving efficient and effective delivery of customer-focused services which are competitive not only nationally but regionally and internationally.” The City regards this effort as a laudable way to actively work towards this objective by developing young entrepreneurs, through systems like the Ward Contractor System. LIZ SIBINDI Public Relations Officer City of Windhoek