The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: NAC Explains Away Napwu Recognition

THE Namibia Airports Company (NAC) has denied that it does not deduct membership fees of staff who are members of the Namibian Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau), as the battle between Natau and the Namibian Public Workers Union (Napwu) for bargaining status at the company drags on.

NAC's general manager of human resources, Olavi Hamwele, on Friday said the parastatal respects its workers' rights of association and therefore would not engage in such unbecoming activity.

"Membership is recognised immediately upon receipt and are promptly loaded on payroll unless received after the 15th of the month. In such a case, the loading shall stand over to the next month's payroll. The onus however rests with the one that alleges to provide material evidence," Hamwele said.

"NAC has always maintained neutrality in this regard and has a good relationship with both Natau and Napwu," Hamwele said.

An NAC worker and Natau member who spoke to The Namibian insisted that there are a number of cases where Natau membership fees have not been deducted from their salaries.

The NAC has reportedly said that it would not deduct union membership fees unless so instructed by the members.

"No one gave the company instructions not to deduct our membership fees," said the NAC staffer, who preferred anonymity.

The worker said the NAC human resources department had promised Natau members that they would be shown the payroll to verify that their membership fees were deducted.

The worker said this did not happen though, and a week later a letter dated July 6 was circulated which stated that the Napwu majority was confirmed.

"This is just a dirty political game going on," the worker said.

Hamwele said since Napwu's membership at the NAC had declined in April, the company gave Napwu an extension of 90 days - April to July - to prove its majority membership in line with the Labour Act.

He said on July 3 Napwu was able to prove that it represented more than 50 percent plus one employee.

He said the bargaining unit currently consists of 213 employees, of whom 111 are Napwu members and 85 Natau members. The remaining 17 are not union members.

This means that Napwu's membership at NAC stands at 52,1 percent.

However, some employees claimed that the company should have organised a ballot instead of verifying as they did.

"This issue will be cleared by the workers," Natau general secretary John Kwedhi said on Friday. "We are not at war. The workers must decide which union they want to belong to."

The Natau members met yesterday afternoon to clear up the matter.

Hamwele said the NAC would recognise Napwu as the representative of its members within the defined bargaining unit, provided that its membership forms the majority of the total number of the company's employees within that bargaining unit.

If Napwu failed to meet the requirements of the agreement, the agreement would remain valid for a mandatory period of three months to give the union an opportunity to prove that it could meet the requirements.

NAC first signed a recognition agreement with Napwu in June 2004, and the three months' reprieve between April and July was a time-out until Napwu could prove its majority.

Hamwele said Natau can represent its members at disciplinary hearings, but since it does not have exclusive bargaining power, it cannot, for example, call a strike.

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