Acting High Court Judge Leezhel van Wyk yesterday ordered the approximately 400 striking workers at Neckertal Dam construction to immediately cease their industrial action.
The workers have also been asked to remove the chain and padlock from the entrance gates of the premises to allow undisturbed access to the management of Salini, its employees and service providers.
The order was granted after Salini, the Italian contracting company in charge of the construction of the N$2.4 billion dam in Keetmanshoop, approached the court with an urgent application for an interim court order to stop the strike, saying it is illegal. The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) that represents the workers and which was cited as the defendant did not oppose the urgent application.
Workers were ordered not to intimidate, harass or threaten the management of Salini and any other employee not participating in the strike, as well as service providers.
Workers were further ordered to return to work immediately, if requested to do so by Salini. The orders will operate as interim interdicts with immediate effect and shall remain effective pending the return date of August 4.
Workers embarked on a strike at about 04h00 on the morning of June 27 and presented Salini management with a petition, saying: “The demonstration will take place as from 27 June 2016 until our demands are met at the Neckartal Dam Project.”
In an affidavit deposed by Fabrizio Lazzarin, the project manager of Salini says the workers embarked on an “unlawful and prohibited strike.” He also informed the court that the industrial action is costing the company approximately N$2 million a day, mainly due to loss of production and this money will in the end come from taxpayers’ pockets.
Advocate Yoleta Campbell, instructed by Metcalfe Attorneys, who appeared on behalf of Salini, asked the Labour Court to grant interdictory relief to the applicants in the form of a rule nisi (interim court order) calling on MANWU and its members currently on strike to stop the strike.
The court also asked MANWU to show cause on August 4 why the court should not make final the order interdicting and restraining the striking workers from withholding their services and participating in the strike, or any other industrial action.
John Mutorwa, the agricultural minister under whose ministerial ambit the project falls, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that the Neckartal Dam Project is a very important expensive and strategic national project.
“Government cannot, may not and shall not compromise on the quality of, as well as the value for money of the Neckartal Dam Project,” he said. He asked the two parties to “closely work together as a team and to resolve any labour disputes amicably, strictly in compliance with the country’s labour and other applicable laws.”
Lazzarin told the court that the workers barred the entrance and refused to let anyone or anything enter or leave the premises. “It is practically a situation of nobody goes in and nobody goes out. All persons on the inside of the premises are being kept hostage,” Lazzarin said.
According to him, there are some 500 employees on the premises and their liberty is being hampered by the striking workers. He further said the employees are dependent on fresh produce, such as vegetables and milk from outside, but as no one is allowed to enter, none of these can be accessed.
According to Lazzarin, while no medical emergencies have occurred so far, the situation is a threat to life and limb, as the medical personnel who live in Keetmanshoop, 70 km away, are barred from entering the premises.