24 January 2013

Namibia: Still No Arbitrator in NAC Pension Issue

THERE still has not been any decision regarding the appointment of an arbitrator in the matter of outstanding pension payouts to retrenched Namibia Airports Company (NAC) workers.

Acting NAC CEO Tamer el-Kallawi yesterday said the issue of appointing an arbitrator "is still in the process".

"NAC and GIPF [Government Institutions Pension Fund] have to agree on a specific arbitrator. They further have to agree on the terms of reference for the arbitration process, which is a lengthy process," el-Kallawi said.

It is however rumoured that an arbitrator has not yet been found because of delays caused by the NAC, which is reportedly reluctant to pay an additional amount to cover the pension payouts of the retrenched workers determined by the GIPF's actuary.

It is understood that the NAC was to send a letter to the GIPF yesterday to explain why there was a delay in the appointment of an arbitrator.

In November last year, GIPF corporate communications officer Elvis Nashilongo was hopeful that the arbitrator matter would be concluded "soonest".

By then, the pension payouts had already dragged on for more than eight months.

The former NAC workers this week said some of them might lose their cars and houses because they couldn't pay their bills.

"We have to go hungry while the NAC is dragging its feet," an angry retrenched worker said.

After the workers threatened to camp in front of the GIPF office until an arbitrator was appointed, the GIPF capitulated and decided to assist the workers by paying out a portion of their pensions in cash benefits, or resignation benefits.

The remaining pension payouts are subject to the arbitration process.

The delay came about because there was a dispute between the NAC and the retrenched workers regarding the reason for the termination of their employment.

The GIPF said its rules regarding pension payouts are not negotiable, and any benefit claim forwarded to the fund should therefore be dealt with in terms of those rules.

It stated that there was no negotiation between the GIPF and the NAC regarding pension packages, but noted nonetheless that there was a "lack of clarity" on what types of benefits NAC had applied for.

It was for this reason that the GIPF requested the NAC management to fully comply with the GIPF's rules and to supply the fund with all the supporting documents, which means that the NAC and its former workers have to agree on the type of benefits the workers are entitled to.

The GIPF was at great pains to explain that it was not responsible for the delay in the pension payouts, but that it was a matter between the NAC and its former workers.

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