By John Ekongo
All but one employee of the University of Namibia Kitchen and Related Services Division are on the brink of joining the army of unemployed after management of the tertiary institution opted to retrench them, citing restructuring among other reasons, concerned staff members related to New Era.
Exactly 24 employees at the university, whose years of service range between 11 and 27, stand to lose their employment today, after the council of the university decided to outsource the kitchen facilities.
The concerned members questioned the humanity of the university for simply dumping them.
A letter dated April 10 this year and circulated to all staff members, states: “This letter serves as notice in terms of Section 50 (1) of the Labour Act, 1992 (Act 6 of 1992) of the intention of the University of Namibia to terminate your contract of employment due to the operational requirements of the university and the subsequent redundancy of your position.”
It further states that “kindly take notice that your contract of employment will be terminated with effect from Monday the 30 June 2008 (your last working day)”. This was extended until today.
According to the concerned members, they were informed that the kitchen and related services unit was not making any profit, hence the decision to outsource the services.
The losses accounted for N$4 million, said a source.
What irks the workers is the urgency applied by the university to retrench them, despite the absence of a company ready to take over the outsourced services.
“There is no company ready to provide the service, but they have this urgency to retrench us,” said one of the affected workers. “We are being treated like dogs,” added another Impeccable sources in the University Council, the highest decision-making body says, “there was no tenders put up and we don’t have a company yet that will get into this place”.
Unam tender rules state that tenders must be placed publicly and run for three months before an award can be made. According to a source, the practice is that preference is always given to existing independent catering companies at the university to bid for the outsourced services. There are three catering operators at the institution currently, namely Independent Take Away, which runs the Tennis Courts Eatery; Rent-A-Chef which manages the Leisure Centre, a beer garden theme multi-purpose eatery and entertainment centre; and the Grub, fast-food cafeteria located in the centre of the university.
The rumour mill speculates that catering giant, Roynam Caterers, is at the forefront of clinching the outsourced service, a position that Unam says is untrue.
Unam confirmed through its Public Relations Division that it had opted to retrench the 24 staff members.
“The university has given notice of retrenchment to 24 staff members, working in the kitchen and laundry sections of the office of the Dean of Students.
“The university informed the unions in writing on the 9th April 2008 and again on the 20th of May 2008 about these retrenchments. Reasons for the retrenchments were provided in both these letters,” read a statement from Utaara Hoveka of Unam’s Public Relations Division.
The kitchen is meant to provide meals to more than 1?