AFTER a two-year negotiation process, the Roads Contractor Company (RCC) signed a recognition agreement with the Public Service Union of Namibia (PSUN) yesterday.
PSUN, which is not affiliated to the ruling Swapo Party, described the process as having been characterised “by a whole lot of bad blood and acrimony” brought on by the apparent reluctance of the company to recognise the union in its uphill battle to prove its majority membership over the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu).
By the middle of last year, the RCC refused to recognise the PSUN as the exclusive bargaining union even after it won the majority membership. The union then accused the RCC of having introduced unwarranted terms.
In 2009, many RCC employees threatened to cancel their membership with Napwu, accusing the union of not representing them properly and negotiating without a proper mandate from the members.
A week later, the RCC workers demonstrated at the company’s head office to demand a 20% salary increase which they alleged Napwu had failed to negotiate for.
By the middle of last year, the RCC still refused to recognise the PSUN as the exclusive bargaining union despite the fact that it had the majority union membership by then.
It was only in February this year that the RCC notified Napwu that its membership had declined to less than 50 percent, but the RCC reportedly remained reluctant to recognise the PSUN as the exclusive bargaining union.
PSUN deputy secretary general Manfred Jatamunua yesterday said the workers threatened to go on strike if the union was not recognised.
RCC CEO Engelhard Haihambo yesterday made it clear that it was the employees, and not the employer, who decided which union would be the recognised bargaining partner.
“We will support the decision of the workers. We will work with the PSUN to ensure that the workers are taken care of. We will remain committed and will stay open for mutual discussions,” Haihambo said.
Jatamunua said the agreement stipulates provisions which will govern the relationship between the union and the company.
“We shall play our cards openly and as far as humanly possible be above board in all our dealings and doings. We only expect that the management and the leadership of the company will reciprocate such stance and position,” PSUN secretary general Victor Kazonyati said.
RCC industrial relations manager Cassian Shipapo yesterday said by the end of September the bargaining unit consisted of 762 employees.
Of these, 416 are members of PSUN, which constitutes 54,59% of the workforce. Napwu, which once had the majority membership, by the end of September only had 192 members at the RCC, making up 25,2% of the workers.
Shipapo said the PSUN membership might have risen since then, but he could not confirm the numbers.