More than 100 temporary employees at NovaNam fishing company in Lüderitz recently held a demonstration and gave the company until next week to address their grievances, failure of which they will request the labour ministry to intervene.
NovaNam, which employs 1 200 temporary workers, has in the past few months seen industrial unrest. Its employees also previously appealed to the Employment Equity Commissioner (EEC) Vilbard Usiku to investigate what they termed the breach of EEC requirements by NovaNam. They also in the past accused the company of having a race-based pay structure, whereby black workers are paid less compared to white workmates, as was the case before independence. In the latest labour skirmish workers have given NovaNam until next Monday to respond to their demands, failure of which they plan to take up the issue with the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Erkki Nghimtina.
The current bone of contention is the salaries of temporary workers, which they say is not commensurate with their work and that despite carrying out similar duties to workers in the permanent category, they earn far less. In a petition read on behalf of the aggrieved workers by Victoria Nambiya, the temporary employees said they felt their future is in the balance and that despite the fact that they have worked for the fishing giant for more than 14 years they are still employed on a temporary basis and are paid “‘starvation wages”. “During our strike in 2013/2014 the main issue was temporary employees. Deputy Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation Alpheus Muheua had taken this point from the table so that he can deal with it because it is a matter of law to be implemented, and is not negotiable. But to date he did not resolve this matter as he had promised us,” stated workers in their petition.The workers acknowledge that there have been ongoing meetings between NovaNam, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) and Muheua as from April 2015 and he had referred the parties to go back to the negotiation table for resolution by August 20, but nothing appears to have materialised from that undertaking.
In their petition they also mentioned that the meeting held on August 20 between NovaNam management and Nafau “worsened matters”, as the company reportedly said it did not have the mandate to negotiate with the disgruntled employees.
NovaNam managers have indicated they will only employ temporary employees on a permanent basis based on an additional fishing quota allocated to the company, and that no temporary worker will be employed permanently if the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources again allocated it a quota of 14 000 tonnes or less.
NovaNam indicated it employs one person for each 100 tonnes allocated.
NovaNam’s human resources manager, Mannu Namukomba, accepted the petition on behalf of NovaNam and he promised to study it before responding to the media on the concerns raised by the workers.