Agribank Retrenchments Turn Ugly

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK The battle between the Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) and Agribank over planned redundancies at the company is turning increasingly ugly. The bad blood between the parties has become so bitter that Agribank’s lawyers, Conradie& Damaseb, are now threatening legal action against Nafinu General Secretary Asnath Zamuee. The threatened legal action stems from a letter Zamuee wrote to Agribank CEO, Ambassador Leonard Ipumbu, on May15, 2007 in connection with a planned staff meeting called by Ipumbu at the bank. In the letter, she pointed out that Agribank had served Nafinu with a notice that it would carry out a restructuring or retrenchment programme at the bank affecting its members. She reminded Ipumbu that in the light of the union’s Recognition Agreement with the bank, the right course of action for the company was to only deal through the union with its affected members. Zamuee then goes on to demand Ipumbu calls a meeting with staff, reiterating that the company should negotiate with the union. The union further alleges that it had reliable information that Ipumbu’s office was intimidating its members by phoning them and asking them to sign letters with regard to the redundancies. “We wish to remind your office that such behaviour might have detrimental effects. We therefore demand that this uncalled for attitude be stopped without further ado,” the Nafinu general secretary said. In an almost comical reply to the union the next day, Conradie & Damaseb – using some very convoluted reasoning – somehow extrapolated that Zamuee’s letter is meant to convey the message that: – Our client (Ipumbu) is a hooligan; – Our client is acting in a criminal manner; – Our client abuses his position as Chief Executive Officer; – Our client lacks moral fibre; – Our client is not fit to be the Chief Executive Officer of the Bank. Conradie & Damaseb go on to say their client rejects the allegations of impropriety with the contempt they deserve, demanding that Zamuee retracts the allegations and tenders an apology to their client. Failing a retraction, the law firm threatens their client might consider taking legal action against her in her personal capacity, as well as in her capacity as General Secretary of Nafinu. Zamuee yesterday indicated she has no intention of either retracting or apologising for what she said in the letter. “It is a pathetic attempt to scare me, and it’s failed to scare me at all. It’s another example of the intimidation tactics they are using,” she dismissively remarked about the Conradie & Damaseb letter. The law firm further warns the union that Agribank will not tolerate the invasion of the company’s premises without notice when it conducts meetings with its members.