Keetmanshoop-Natural Namibian Meat Products, an abattoir at Aranos, had to cancel its disciplinary hearing after the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) showed up for the hearing.
The workers claim the hearing was due to take place yesterday, but the company cancelled it at the 11th hour, because a representative from Nafau turned up to represent the workers during the planned hearing.
All 53 workers at the abattoir face disciplinary action and have all received letters informing them to be present at the hearing for allegedly taking part in an illegal strike last month, but the workers said the company cancelled the hearing, because they do not want the union to be present.
Workers said they were ready for the hearing and their employer did not inform them of any changes, but after the arrival of Nafau the company promptly cancelled the hearing.
One of the shopstewards, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the abattoir is reluctant to allow the workers be represented by any union, and workers are not surprised the hearing was cancelled at the last minute.
“They cancelled the hearing after they saw the union representative here. They do not want the union to be present. We do not understand why. Maybe they just want to do whatever they want with the workers,” he said.
The letters served to the workers indicate that they face three charges: participating in an illegal strike, involving themselves in acts detrimental to the employer; and failing to follow policies and procedures set out in the work contract, but the workers are adamant they have done nothing wrong.
They say they will not accept any false charge of wrong-doing, stating that none of them were involved in any strike – whether legal or illegal – and that they had simply gathered at the office during lunch-hour to enquire about unpaid overtime, which had not been paid for April and May months.
Nafau Mariental branch organiser Sesilia Endjala concurred with the workers, saying they did not do anything wrong and the disciplinary hearing was thus uncalled for. “There was nothing wrong done by the workers, they just demanded what is rightfully theirs and it was during their lunch, but they (the managers) just want to intimidate the workers,” she said.
Endjala further accused the company of sabotaging the union’s efforts to represent the workers, as the company is allegedly refusing to deduct monthly union fees from the members’ salaries, and workers are now forced to make the payment by hand.
The company’s administrative manager, Adele Visser, had little to say when contacted for comment, as she indicated that under company policy she was not allowed to speak to or give any information to the press.
“I am sorry but it is company policy that we not give any information to the press,” she said.