By Desie Heita
Workers at Skorpion Zinc Mine have thrown in the towel and are back at work.
However, not for long as the mine had notified them of a lockout as from 15h00 today (Friday). The mine has also given letters of warning and suspended several workers who took part in the strike.
The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) has approached the office of the labour commissioner for an authoritative intervention.
“We now await for the labour commissioner’s office to set a date on which we can all sit around the table and try to resolve this,” said Michaelano Kadhikwa, the branch chairman of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia in the south.
The labour commissioner’s office could not comment as the labour commissioner was out of the country.
The ping-pong game at Skorpion Zinc reached a climax this week, with the mine management having an upper hand in the negotiations. The mine is demanding that the union co-signs the mine’s petition and an exemption application from the payment of overtime on Sundays and any other hour worked after the normal 12-hour shift.
Kadhikwa had said they were willing to sign the documents until they learnt of further attached conditions.
The conditions are that the MUN withdraw the Labour Court case of non-payment of overtime, accept the seven days off site for workers as leave days, and accept non-payment of overtime on Sundays and public holidays.
“We were willing to sign the petition and the exception letter as our members have given us the mandate to do so. But these conditions are not acceptable,” said Kadhikwa who accuses the mine management of negotiating in bad faith.
The mine’s spokesperson, Usi //Hoebeb, said the mine “is still talking to the workers and is willing to continue talking until the issue is put to bed”.
//Hoebeb could not comment on how the strike has affected production but said production is continuing.
Kadhikwa said the union is puzzled by the lack of understanding of the labour law on the part of Skorpion Zinc Mine management.
Workers returned to work on Wednesday morning. They had earlier instructed the union to withdraw from the table other demands of overtime, housing allowance and transportation service, and agreed to a 12 percent wage and salary increment.
The other issues were to be discussed at a later stage. The mine sprung a surprise that the wage and salary increment is subjected to the condition that the union signs a petition and an overtime exception letter to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
Kadhikwa said this shows that the mine is not sincere in its negotiations. He also accused the top management of being unfamiliar with the Labour Act.
The president of the MUN, Andries Eiseb, could not comment, as he had not been briefed about the new development.