12 July 2012

Namibia: Gold Miners to Down Tools Tomorrow

Walvis Bay — Employees at the Navachab gold mine have voted in favour of a strike after recent wage negotiations ended in a stalemate. Out of a total 211 mineworkers 209 voted in favour of the strike on Monday.

Frustrated workers at the open-pit, gold mine owned by AngloGold Ashanti, situated near Karibib, in the Erongo Region told New Era the wage negotiations have been dragging on since mid-December 2011. Increments for the employees were due in January this year already.

Full-time shop steward, Albertus Noariseb said the company's management and the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) reached a deadlock last Friday over the wage negotiations. Workers grumble over what they claim are starvation wages, heavy taxes, a lack of housing and other benefits, as well as the gold mine's alleged non-adherence to safety standards.

According to Johan Coetzee, the managing director of Navachab, the mine increased its initial offer of 7 percent to 8 percent on basic wages, conditional upon immediate acceptance. However, the offer was rejected by the union, which stuck to its demand of a 12 percent increase on basic wages.

"In addition to negotiated increases on basic wages, Navachab continues to be the only mine in Namibia that offers a 100 percent medical aid contribution for its employees and their dependants and also pays school fees for its employees' children, attending the Karibib Private School. The company also provides free transport to and from work," it stated.

Furthermore, the mine says its wage bill has increased by 4 percent between 2011 and 2012 due the price increases on the above-mentioned benefits. With the company's offer of a 7 percent basic wage increase, the total increased cost to company for employees in the bargaining unit thus stands at 11 percent, according to the company. This is against a background of an inflation rate of just over 5 percent in 2011, while company performance was 23 percent below its target. However, last month the company was accused of purposely delaying wage negotiations.

The employees also demand the immediate removal of the human resource manager, Patrick Chizabulyo and the employee relations manager Bobby Mbeeli, saying the two blatantly favour the company during the wage negotiations. The management of the company, however dismissed the allegations levelled against the two and countered that the annual wage negotiations with the MUN are guided by procedures prescribed in the Labour Act, or agreed upon between the two parties in the Recognition and Procedural Agreement with the union and not by specific individuals.

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