NDC cattle farm workers threaten to down tools

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MANGETTI – Workers at Mangetti/Kavango Cattle Ranch which is owned by the parastatal Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) are crying out for better salaries and benefits like medical aid and danger allowance, amongst others. The government-owned farm is situated in Kavango West Region.

The workers held a demonstration last Wednesday when they handed a petition to NDC’s senior management.
Workers are demanding salary adjustments and also want fringe benefits such as medical aid, proper accommodation and sanitation.
“We have no housing allowance, no danger allowance, as you know we work in the veld where there are dangerous animals. We want our lives to be improved and demand medical aid. We are also asking management at the head office for benefits for pensioners who go home after retirement with nothing and please allow us to be able to purchase livestock cheaply since we work here and can’t afford anything,” reads the petition.
Some claimed to have been working at the farm for 30 years but still earn a basic salary of N$1 600.
“We are talking of 30 years of hard work – just imagine the years spent, it’s not going hand in hand with the salary and we are not on any ordinary farm, this is a parastatal of the government,” said one worker emphatically.
According to the workers, they work in camps in the veld guarding and protecting cattle from wild animals.
“We want to be employed permanently with medical aid. Like all humans we are not immune to disease and we work at high risk. You know the cattle are the prey of wild animals and we have to protect them and thereby put our lives at risk. We are also at risk of poisonous snakes and lions,” said one worker who didn’t want his name published.
The workers are demanding that the lowest paid worker earn at least above N$3 500.
“We want to be paid according to our qualifications and experience. I get paid N$3 000 while I’m a qualified mechanic from a vocational training centre, and that is peanuts. I have to look after my family with such a low salary,” said Joachim Paulus.
Receiving the petition on behalf of NDC, the senior manager of corporate services Wessel !Nanuseb said that some of the issues raised in the petition have already been addressed and some are work in progress, while some are new. He conceded that housing has been an issue, since even before he came to NDC.
!Nanuseb said he would engage the board as well as the government that is the 100 percent shareholder of NDC, adding that management is mandated to address the workers’ grievances as a matter of urgency.
Regarding accommodation, he said NDC is busy constructing housing units for some 20 workers who will soon be appointed permanently.
“Every permanent staff member will be accommodated in a house and the units are almost completed. You also indicated that the units do not have two doors and we have already looked into that and have instructed the contractor to effect the changes.
“With regard to salaries I am challenging anyone, any union, to prove otherwise because what we have done despite the hard times that NDC went through, was to make sure that at least inflation related salary adjustments were made for all staff members including the workers at Kavango Cattle Ranch,” said!Nanuseb.
!Nanuseb said that he would come back on the deadline given by workers in the petition, April 1, to further respond to their demands.
The workers gave NDC an ultimatum saying they will go back to work but come April 1 they will down tools if their demands are not met – so they expect answers by the given deadline.

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