By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Ohlthaver & List Group of Companies says it would respond maturely and responsibly to grievances listed in a nine-page petition handed over yesterday by the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU). The union handed the petition on behalf of a group of disgruntled workers of the Windhoek Schlachterei and former workers of O&L. Upon receiving the petition in front of the company’s steps in the capital, the senior vice-chairperson of the Ohlthaver & List Group of Companies, Udo Stritter, spoke on behalf of the executive chairperson, Sven Thieme, who was reportedly out of town. “We will study the contents of your petition. You can rest assured that we will respond to the issues raised therein in a mature and responsible manner,” said Stritter. “We fully support our country’s development goals, including Vision 2030, and will do everything in our power to create more jobs on a sustainable basis,” Stritter added. Led by NAFAU’s general secretary, Kiros Sackarias, a group of approximately 35 disgruntled workers, under police escort, marched down Independence Avenue to the O&L building to hand over the petition. They sang liberation songs and carried placards some of which read ‘Stop Restructuring Process Now’, ‘End all Outsourcing’, ‘Negotiate in Good Faith’, ‘Job Security for All’ and ‘Fire the MD of O&L Now’. Unions and their members have, over the past weeks, voiced disappointment over the way in which current restructuring and outsourcing has affected many workers. Lately, over 90 workers faced the wrath of a unilateral restructuring process by the Windhoek Schlachterei management. Other affected companies are Hansa Brauerei in Swakopmund, Namibia Breweries in Windhoek and Gobabis, Rietfontein, Hangana Sea Food, Namibia Dairies, Mariental Depot as well as some Namib Sun Hotels like Strand Hotel in Swakopmund, Otjiwa Lodge and Atlantic Hotel at Midgard. It turns out that all O&L depots countrywide are either being restructured or completely closed down. Yesterday, on behalf of its members and workers in the country, NAFAU handed over a petition against the O&L Group of Companies in relation to the Restructuring Strategy of their subsidiaries countrywide, which has resulted in many job losses countrywide. Reading the petition, the treasurer of NAFAU, Florence Rukata, said “the current situation which is prevailing in this Group is totally unacceptable as it is being sped up to reach its objectives under the guise of business losses making concept.” With this restructuring going on at various subsidiary companies, NAFAU is highly concerned about their workers who ultimately fall victim to what the union termed as a “rush and crush strategy” by the O&L Group. Rukata noted that, with the current restructuring process, most workers have been reduced to being “the street roamers since 2004 to 2007.” Approximately 950 workers have lost their jobs through restructuring and retrenchment in the O&L Group of Companies. “Where is this O&L monopoly leading the economy of this country? Is the Group of Companies not seeking to impoverish the workers of this country with its current restructuring programme?” asked Rukata. In the petition, NAFAU demands that the entire restructuring process be put on hold, and that the current Windhoek Schlachterei managing director, Andy Roberts, be called upon to resign immediately. There is also a call to speed up the “so-called investigation of theft of money and bringing the culprits to book without any delay”. The union also demands that all 93 affected employees of Windhoek Schlachterei be permanently employed and retained in the company. In addition, NAFAU calls for an end to all outsourcing of work to third parties. Rukata said current restructuring at Windhoek Schlachterei is a “hidden agenda aimed at getting rid of our Union’s president, and nothing else.” The union further called on the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Alpheues !Naruseb, to conduct research within the O&L Group of Companies to establish facts relating to current job losses. NAFAU general secretary, Kiros Sackarias, said the message as outlined in the petition is loud and clear and must be taken seriously, adding that his union will continue campaigning for the rights of workers in the country. “We do not want to become victims of the system and part and parcel of the system. We are not going to sit back. This is not a threat, but NAFAU is ready and steady,” added Sackarias. NAFAU also handed over a cash donation of N$500 to the former employees of the Old Breweries as a token of solidarity in support of those dismissed in 1989. This group has been camping outside the O&L headquarters in Windhoek for close on two months now.
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