Unam Kitchen Staff Get Short Respite

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By John Ekongo

WINDHOEK

Employees of the University of Namibia (Unam), kitchen and related services (including laundry service), who until last week faced possible retrenchment, got some respite following management’s decision to extend their stay until August 15.

In April this year, Unam opted to retrench 24 employees of the kitchen and laundry division, citing operational requirements and the redundancy of positions.

A letter dated April 10 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 30 June 2008 (your last working day)”.

That was extended to July 11. Following the lapse of this deadline, Unam offered another extension to August 15.

Sources had revealed then that the decision to retrench the employers was attributed to the kitchen making losses of N$4 million. Unam said it could no longer sustain the facility.

According to sources, the university thereafter had mulled the idea of outsourcing the services to shake off the financial responsibility of running the kitchen and concentrate on its core objectives of providing education.

This was sanctioned by a restructuring and operational plan undertaken by the university in 2004, to partially shed off additional responsibilities.
No tender has been given out yet.

Unam tender rules state that tenders must be placed publicly and run for three months before an award is 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 currently three catering operators at the institution, 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, could clinch the outsourced service. Unam says that is not true.

On Monday, faced with the need to provide breakfast to students coming in for the second semester, the university recalled the 24 workers and urged them to continue with normal duties until directed otherwise by the university.

A letter to this effect reads: “Kindly be informed that the retrenchment process has been deferred to the 15 August 2008 in order to allow for possible negotiations on the matter with unions recognised by the university”.

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