Contractor fails to pay workers

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Keetmanshoop-With many hourseholds experiencing the financial squeeze in January, despite having received their December salaries, imagine starting January having received your last pay cheque in October.

This is the situation 11 Edison Building Enterprise CC workers at Keetmanshoop find themselves in.
The company is contracted to upgrade the Keetmanshoop Fish Farm for N$20 million, but the workers say they have not been paid their November and December salaries and are still waiting to be remunerated.

Some of the workers New Era spoke to said life has been hard for them, and basic necessities are hard to come by without their salaries, saying they have people that depend on them to provide food and other basic needs. Not receiving their salaries over the past two months has not only affected them, but their families too. One of the affected workers, who requested anonymity for fear of losing his job, spoke of the difficulties of gettiung by without any wages, considering that he has to pay rent and support his siblings.

He said he is the sole breadwinner in the family, after his father died in 2009, leaving him with five sisters, who are all of schoolgoing age and they all depend on him to provide from the little he makes.

“I didn’t send any money home since November and now my sisters are waiting for money, so they can buy school uniforms and other school materials, but I have nothing,” he said.

The supervisor on site Collin Hekemo confirmed that he and the other employees have not received their salaries since November 2016, but said the company promised to pay all its workers by Friday.

“They said they will pay us this Friday, the 13th of January,” he stated.
Despite confirmation from the site supervisor regarding the non-payment of salaries, the company director, Edison Kapuuo, denied the claims, saying all salaries have been paid.

“To my knowledge and understanding all workers have been paid, and not only those at Keetmanshoop, but at all our projects countrywide,” he said.

He further said there have been no complaints from the workers, nor has any worker gone to the Ministry of Labour to report such a case.

“We didn’t receive any complaints from any worker. I just heard that some workers went to New Era, so maybe their intentions are to tarnish the company’s image,” he said.

The operational manager, Rairirira Mbetjiha, was in no mood to talk about the issue, saying the matter is between the company and the workers and he will not discuss it in the media.

“You want me to discuss my workers’ issues through the media? There is nothing that I need to clarify and if someone has grievances there are proper procedures to follow. I won’t react to rumours.”

He maintained there is no problem with the workers and instead accused the reporter of trying to create a problem by picking on petty issues.

“I have a problem with reporters trying to sensationalise things,” he said and urged this reporter to attend a meeting slated for Monday for further information on the project.

The fish farm manager, Peter Simasiku, however also said he is aware of the workers’ situation, adding that he hopes it will be rectified soon as it affects staff morale.

“If these guys are not paid it affects their morale, and this might affect the progress of the project,” he said. “I’m not happy that they are not being paid, but I’m happy with the work they are doing,” he remarked.

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