The Namibian (Windhoek)

20 November 2012

Namibia: Laid-Off Airport Workers to Protest At GIPF

RETRENCHED Namibia Airports Company (NAC) workers say they will camp out at the head office of the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) until the fund appoints an arbitrator in the standoff over pension payouts.

The laid-off workers met with the GIPF yesterday morning to express their disappointment that an arbitrator had not yet been appointed. Acting CEO Maria Dax said at the beginning of this month that an arbitrator would be recruited.

According to the former workers, the delay in getting an arbitrator on board is because the acting NAC CEO, Tamer el-Kallawi, who is standing in for suspended CEO Ben Biwa, does not know the details of the dispute.”

Another called the restructuring process earlier this year a “scam”, used as a ploy to get rid of NAC employees seen as earning salaries higher than at other parastatals.

“We are going to camp out here until this matter is resolved. If they want to arrest us for it, then so be it. It will be either they or our creditors who will arrest us,” said one of the workers who took the retrenchment option about eight months ago when the NAC was restructured.

“We will come with our placards and tents,” said another. “We will force an arbitrator out of the GIPF.”

GIPF spokesman Elvis Nashilongo said the matter was being discussed and he couldn’t comment yet.

“I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the meeting; it has not yet found a conclusive position,” Nashilongo said yesterday afternoon.

He did say that it was not the obligation of the GIPF to appoint an arbitrator, even though the GIPF rules stated that an arbitrator should be employed if there was a deadlock between an employer and the GIPF.

“It is the obligation of the employer to pay its people. If the employer has retrenched its workers, it must own up to it,” he said. “Overall it should be noted that this is an employer issue, but we are obliged to assist our members.”

The NAC previously insisted that it couldn’t comment on the pension payout issue because the case is sub judice.

The retrenched workers also expressed their frustration because neither Prime Minister Nahas Angula nor Labour Minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko has intervened in the pension standoff.

They also called for the intervention of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

“Why is the government not standing up and saying the NAC must pay?” the workers wanted to know.

Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina last week said he would not take action against the NAC board as was recommended by an investigation into the controversial NAC restructuring.

The retrenched workers hold the NAC board responsible for the non-payment of their pensions, and have demanded that the board and management of the NAC be relieved of their duties.

“They [the board] are sitting there and eating and misusing the NAC money,” one of the workers said.

“The NAC board must be fired. Biwa is not the only one who should go. All of them must go because they are incompetent and have messed up the company. They are bringing the company into disrepute.”

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