WINDHOEK – Employees of one the oldest short-term insurance company in southern Africa, Mutual & Federal, embarked on a country-wide strike yesterday after a deadlock was reached with the company’s management over a salary increase, a medical aid contribution and a housing allowance. This is the first industrial action to hit the company since 1831.
On February 13, about 90 percent of Mutual & Federal employees represented by the Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) voted to proceed with a ‘no work-no pay’ strike. The strike is a response to an unresolved wage dispute arising from a wage increase in March 2013. Mutual & Federal is part of the Old Mutual Group of Companies.
“Although the union’s demands are unrealistic and unsustainable, current Mutual & Federal management fully respects the right of unionized employees to take strike action on issues of concern, including a deadlock on wage increase demands via normal business procedures,” said Tracy Eagles, the executive for marketing, transformation and customer strategy at Old Mutual Namibia Group, in a statement.
“Mutual & Federal is a bad employer. There has been no compromise on our demands from their side and they have not opened up their books to justify their stance,” lamented Nafinu’s general secretary Asnath Zamuee.
According to Zamuee employees are demanding a 9 percent salary increase, 50 percent company contribution to medical aid and a housing allowance. She said the company’s management, whom she described as being hostile towards employees, is however only offering a 6.3 percent salary increase and have refused to budge on the medical aid contribution and housing allowance.
According to Eagles, not all employees of Mutual & Federal are union members or have voted in favour of a strike. “In consequence, not all employees will participate in the strike action. Mutual & Federal will continue to serve its clients and ensure that business operations continue, within the constraints of not having all employees on board,” said Eagles.
Said Zamuee: “It is interesting to note that management are enjoying a car allowance, housing allowance, cellphone allowance, entertainment allowance and many other benefits while advocating cost-cutting measures on matters related to employees.
“Huge salary discrepancies and gaps are another bone of contention. There is no internal equity in the company. There are vast amounts of differences in the remuneration of employees performing work of equal value. Favouritism perhaps?
“Instead of coming to the table and holding discussions, management has opted to threaten and intimidate workers who are fighting for what they deserve. What a bad employer! In light of the above-mentioned unbearable attitude from management and in particular the MD, the workers of M&F shall act in their collective means and within the relevant laws to restore a peaceful industrial relation that was once a notable feature in the organization.”
By Edgar Brandt