Desert Fruit still in wage discord

by Matheus Hamutenya

Desert Fruit still in wage discord

Keetmanshoop

Desert Fruit Namibia has called on its employees through their representative, the Namibia Farmworkers’ Union (NAFWU), to accept what it terms a reasonable salary increment.

Desert Fruit CEO Johannes Van Der Walt in a letter addressed to NAFWU and to the Desert Fruit workers committee, urged the workers to accept the proposed salary adjustment scale. Responding to the workers’ petition that was handed to the management about two weeks ago, Van Der Walt said the company is in no position to meet the workers’ demands.



About 400 casual and permanent workers are demanding a wage increment of N$30 per person, with a further N$300 increase to the current monthly N$100 housing allowance. Van Der Walt in a letter seen by New Era states that the amounts equate to a 41 percent increase for casuals and about 50 percent increase for permanent workers. This, he said, is impossible to meet.

The increment demanded by the workers equates to N$2 263.80 from the current N$1 603.80 for casual workers, while permanent workers want an increase to N$2 867.74 from the N$1 907.74 they currently receive. But the CEO indicated that the costs are not sustainable. “These demands are unreasonable and not sustainable,” he said.

The company, therefore, proposed a counter-offer for three categories, which will see casual workers earn N$1 732.10 per month (an 8 percent increase), while permanent workers employed for more than five years will get a proposed 23.3 percent increase to N$2 352. Permanent workers working at the farm for longer than five years are set to get a salary increase of 13.7 percent which equates to N$2585.44.

Van Der Walt further indicated the company is already paying more than the required minimum wage of N$1132.60 per month as gazetted, adding that the company’s proposed new minimum wage is almost double that amount and thus the workers should accept the company’s offer.

“We request that in light of the above the employees accept the final proposal within five working days,” he said. He further called on the union to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible to negotiate in good faith and avoid unnecessary industrial action.

In a telephonic interview with New Era NAFWU general secretary Rocco Nguvauva maintained that the workers’ salary demands are genuine, as other workers in the same industry are paid far better salaries than what Desert Fruit offers.

“Our proposal on the employees’ salary adjustment is reasonable, as Desert Fruit employees are underpaid, compared to other workers in the same industry,” he said in a letter to management.

Nguvauva said the union has the right to protect and defend the workers in any matter they face and also strives for better living and working conditions. He said he hopes the matter will be resolved as soon as possible.

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