9 May 2012

Namibia: RFA Slashes Employees' Salaries

Noordoewer — About 24 people working for the Road Fund Administration (RFA) collecting cross-border and other road user charges at the Noordoewer and Ariamsvlei border posts say the fund reduced their salaries in April this year.

The employees at Noordoewer previously worked for Nick and Carlos (N&C) Trust, while those at Ariamsvlei worked for Iroko Investments. Iroko was contracted by the RFA to collect road user charges and it in turn sub-contracted N&C.

In April this year, the RFA took over that responsibility, and also the staff of the two companies since Iroko's contract, which started around 2006 ended.

Speaking to Nampa on condition of anonymity at Noordoewer on Saturday, some workers explained that their salaries were cut from N$2 700 to N$2 400 per month without explanation.

The Ariamsvlei employees said they used to earn about N$5 000 per month, and now only receive N$2 400 per month without overtime, medical aid or housing benefits.

"We have worked for N&C for more than five years without proper increment, housing benefits and overtime, yet we work 24 hours a day. We are even working with money, but they do not want to pay us," said an employee at Noord­oewer.

They said the only increment they ever received was in 2010. Approached for comment, current road fund supervisor at Noordoewer and co-owner of N&C, Nick Bekeer, said they could not pay overtime or increase salaries since Iroko only gave them a fixed amount every month and it was not enough.

"We used to give them a housing allowance of N$200, although it was not separate from their salaries," said Bekeer.

Apart from the sa­lary issue, employees at Ariamsvlei accused their manager of maltreatment and using vulgar language when addressing them.

They further claim that they were not directly contacted by the RFA on the move to work for them and it was only done through their supervisors, who were also informed telephonically.

"Our manager is very rude to us, and even called me stupid one day. I have worked at the border for more than five years and I know the job better than him. Thus, he cannot come here and call people stupid," said an aggrieved woman.

Nampa solicited comment from Alexander Botha, the Cross-Border Charge (CBC) project manager of the RFA, who is accused of maltreatment and insults. Botha explained that the RFA is planning to advertise the available positions so that all staff can re-apply and be formally employed.

"They will then be compensated based on their qualifications. Most of them have Grade 10 and Grade 12 qualifications," he said.

Botha noted that the employees were not contacted directly, because they work shifts. Thus, it was difficult to inform them all at the same time about new developments at the company.

He said the current payments are just 'offers', while the staff members are on three-months probation. Thereafter, they might receive all the benefits they are asking for.

About the insults, Botha said he did not call anyone any derogatory name, adding that it was just a misunderstanding. He explained that he mentioned 'stupid mistake' when he referred to mistakes done during the entering of data at the border post.

"I am not that stupid to call people stupid," Botha responded. A few minutes after the conversation with Botha, a woman working at the Ariamsvlei border post called this reporter, saying Botha threatened to fire her because she reported him to the media.

"I will go to the Labour Commissioner, and also inform the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate him," said the upset woman.

During the interview with Botha, Nampa never revealed any source to him to give him reason to suspect someone at Ariamsvlei.

Approached for comment on Monday, the acting chief executive officer of the RFA, Andreas Helmich, explained that the company is busy compiling job descriptions to advertise all positions.

He assured workers that although salaries are low, those who will make it in the interviews will receive better salaries and benefits.

All employees will be required to apply for the positions, but some might lose their jobs should they fail the interviews.


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