No severance packages for retrenched Witvlei workers

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WITVLEI – About 200 former employees of Witvlei Meat, who were recently retrenched by the company, are worried by lack of information on whether or not they will receive any severance packages from the now defunct abattoir.

Speculation is rife at the sleepy settlement that the company is still waiting for the outcome of the High Court case it launched in Oslo, Norway, in which it is demanding N$50 million from its former Norwegian partner, Nortura as payment for the last shipment of Witvlei Meat frozen beef sent to the Scandinavian country towards the end of last year.

Disgruntled workers New Era spoke to say that after numerous consultations with the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa), Old Mutual and their former employers, they came to realise that they were left in the cold as far as hope of receiving their severance packages from the company is concerned.

The former employees, who last month received their last packages from the Witvlei Meat, say they owe money to landlords, utilities, school fees, not to mention secured lenders.

One former employee, who did not want to be identified, said she and former co-workers have been running from one house to another to avoid debt collectors impounding their furniture.

Disgruntled former workers are appealing for government to step in on their behalf. They are saying that all they are hearing now is only about the court case; nothing about their well-being is being discussed.

“We want the government to immediately intervene in the matter and resolve the issue. We have already submitted a memorandum to the government in this regard,” said one worker.

“What happened to the proposal that the staff submitted? We had two shareholders’ meetings and each time we are being told by Sidney Martin, this is not the relevant time to discuss our proposal,” said another.

The retrenchments are linked to government’s decision to cut the Witvlei quota of meat exports to Norway in favour of bitter rival, Meatco. Last month, Witvlei Meat sent its entire workforce of some 200 home with their last pay cheque and a promise of full remuneration when Witvlei Meat is paid the N$50 million it is now demanding from its Norwegian shareholder, Nortura. Since then Witvlei Meat has taken its partner to the high court in Oslo.

The quota allocation was previously divided on a 50/50 basis between Witvlei Meat and the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco). However, government changed the allocation with the introduction of a new bidding process based on specific cabinet criteria.

The allocation for the Norwegian market was changed in December 2013 when Witvlei Meat got 350 tonnes, while Meatco received 1 200 tonnes and Brukkaros Meat Processors (BMP) was awarded 100 tonnes.
BMP did however not obtain an export permit.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Witvlei Meat board chairperson, Sidney Martin, referred all queries to the company’s managing director, Hendri Badenhorst, who said he would not discuss the company issues with New Era.

Yesterday, Martin confirmed to New Era that the high court case in Oslo has not started yet after Witvlei Meat served them with the urgent application a fortnight ago.

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