500 construction workers go unpaid

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Maria Amakali
Windhoek

About 500 road construction workers employed on the road between Windhoek and Okahandja were left to fend for themselves after their employers failed to pay their salaries.
The disgruntled workers told New Era they had not yet been paid and they now feared losing their jobs.

According to the deputy Secretary General of the Mining, Maritime, Metal and Construction Union (MMMC), Joseph !Garoeb the employers have not yet paid salaries for May into the accounts of the workers, and he squarely put the blame for the problem on the government.

Workers claim they received a memorandum on May 22 stating they would receive their pay on the 26th and not on the 25th as they normally do, but up to now they have still not received any payment. The employers furthermore allegedly acted without their input.

“The workers are siding with their employers, and accuse the government of failing to pay for the work just as they did with the Chinese company working on the road between Grootfontein and Otjinene,” he said.

In December 2015, the Roads Authority (RA) awarded a billion dollar contract to an Italian company CMC and Otesa Civil Engineering (Pty) Ltd to construct a 27.6 km stretch of road between Windhoek and Okahandja, spanning from the Döbra River to just south of the Osona Military Base.

The Road Fund Administration (RFA) and the RA have co-funded the N$1.08 billion road project. CMC holds 70 percent in the joint venture with Otesa controlling the remaining stake of 30 percent.

The two companies informed the employees that the two government agencies failed to make any payments into their accounts and thus they were unable to pay salaries.
Other labour related matters that have also become a concern for the workers are the issue of long working hours without the right to the lunch-hour mandated by the Labour Act and discrimination amongst others.

“Why should they hire foreigners to do manual labour jobs that Namibians can do? Government should look into the matter with urgency, so that the project won’t come to a standstill,” !Garoeb said.

Despite not receiving their pay, the workers are still on site doing their work in the hope that the employer will make a payment into their accounts when the government agencies meet their obligations.

The two companies informed their employees they have not been paid by the Roads Authority so there is no money to pay them for the work they have rendered, !Garoeb said.
Contacted for comment, the RA assured this newspaper that they would respond to the queries sent to them by no later than yesterday, but failed to do so.

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