NHE in Court Battle over Dismissals

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By Staff Reporter

WINDHOEK

The retrenchment of National Housing Enterprise (NHE) employees in September 2006 has been having a re-run in the Labour Court where legal representatives for the employees and the housing parastatal have been having pitched battles.

The matter returned to the Labour Court last week after the court adjourned in January.

In the dock to give testimony Wednesday was the former cashier and pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Hans Isaak.

Answering questions from the employees’ legal representative Jefta Tjitemisa of Tjitemisa and Associates, Isaak, who claims unfair dismissal, denied that the NHE ever discussed his work record, his general performance or his disciplinary record with him before deciding to retrench him.

He further testified that neither did the company raise the issue of his general suitability for the position he held as well as his general adaptability to changing circumstances.

After his retrenchment on August 31 2006, he was also never offered any employment by NHE. He said although the company retained one cashier, it brought in another from outside after his retrenchment.

However, to the question on whether the two cashiers may have any connection with the NHE Chief Executive Officer, Isaak said he did not know whether the cashier had any connection with the CEO. He also did not know anything about the other to be able to know whether he had any connection with the CEO.

Isaak further testified that since he was retrenched in 2006 he has not engaged in any remunerative work and neither has he attempted to find work in view of his age, over 50 years, as he put it. The fact that NHE has declared him unfit has demoralised him. As an ordained pastor of his church, he could render his community service but lack of money is inhibiting him.

When Tjitemisa asked him whether he would like to go back to the NHE, he said his presence in the court is to seek fairness and if offered the opportunity he shall gladly accept.

Advocate Phillip Brand, acting on behalf of the NHE, put it to Isaak that in a testimony already given to the court he and Ms Menunae Uanivi in fact wanted paid retrenchment but Isaak answered in the negative.

Although he was a member of the Namibia Financial Institution Union (Nafinu) and agreed that he did instruct the union to negotiate a retrenchment package, this was to negotiate a retrenchment package which the company did not agree with.

However, this was not the only matter he expected the union to deal with. He had told the union that he was unhappy with the procedure of his dismissal.

Although he did give the union specific instructions in this regard, he believed the union also took up the matter in view of its experience.

Advocate Brand put it to the witness that the same process of retrenchment did take place in 2004 but Isaak answered that it was not concluded and no one was retrenched.

However, it was only with the 2006 retrenchments that the 2004 group joined another group of close to 50 people.

Four of the previous six people who were to be retrenched in 2004 this time around accepted their packages while two, one of them Isaak, were not happy.

He said, among other things, that he was not happy with their retrenchment procedure.

When Brand put it to him whether he would have been happy with retrenchment had the correct procedure been followed, Isaak answered that it was not any other procedure but the retrenchment policy of NHE.

To the question if he was saying that the company does not follow its retrenchment policy, Isaak answered in the affirmative.

Still Barnard pressed on, rephrasing the question and asking how Isaak would have felt if the company had followed the correct procedure and he was still retrenched.

Isaak noted the ambivalence of the question but pointed out the issue was his package. According to him, they were promised a tax-free retrenchment package of N$250 000, which the company later changed insisting on them paying a 35% percent tax on this.

After Tjitemisa and Barnard’s cross-examination, the court adjourned till Thursday to hear three more witnesses.

Advocate Brand was assisted by Andrew Sekandi of Peter Koep and Partners. Leah Shaanika, the Chairperson of the Labour Court, presided.

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