Oshakati — Workers at Model Pick 'n Pay in Oshakati are up in arms over what they term the 'unfair' termination of their contracts while the company is involved in a labour dispute with the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU).
In addition the workers refused to sign what they term 'unfavorable contracts', skewed totally in favour of the employer and whose content and rationale they say they do not understand.
New Era is in possession of a copy of the notice of termination confirming that as from the 1 October 2012 the workers will no longer be in the employ of Pick 'n Pay Oshakati.
The workers who received notices of termination are Nuule Thomas, Abraham Asino, Ndadi Selma and Petrus Konhindi. Konhindi claims that they were made to sign the said contracts, while the current contract they signed on the 1 July is still valid until 31 September 2012. The workers also claim that they only demanded clarifications on the new contract at a meeting convened by the management.
According to Konhindi the meeting, which was aimed at explaining the new contract in the presence of the Labour Inspector and a representative of the NAFAU was cancelled without any notice or reason.
"While we were waiting for the officials the company management instead forced us to sign the contracts, without any explanations.
However, we should make it clear that we did not refuse to sign the contracts, but only wanted an explanation," Konhindi explained.
The workers even claim that the company's management threatened that they will open a case against NAFAU should they dare to attend the said meeting.
Among the questions the employees had was whether it is fair or even proper to sign a second contract, before the expiry of the first one, which is still valid and also why it was necessary to sign a new contract while a labour dispute is underway, as well as why long serving employees are still treated as casual labourers.
The workers also allege that senior Government officials are in cahoots with management and receive freebies from the company in return for favours, although they did not wish to divulge more information for fear of reprisals.
Oshakati Model Pick 'n Pay branch manager, Ester Uushona, remained tight-lipped over the matter and instead referred New Era to the company's Human Resources Department.
Earlier on Uushona was quoted confirming the existence of some disagreement over the signing of the new contracts, but since it was a directive from the head office there was nothing much she could do.
Efforts to get comments from the Ohlthaver & List Group of Companies' new head for external relations, Roux-ché Lock in Windhoek also proved futile as her landline number went unanswered.
Pick 'n Pay Group is a wholly owned Namibian company that forms part of the Ohlthaver & List Group of companies, with a staff complement of about 1500 nationwide.