New Era (Windhoek)

11 February 2013

Namibia: Hiring of Foreigners Angers Workers

Walvis Bay — Close to 60 employees of engineering company Kraatz Marine of the Ohlthaver and List Group demonstrated at Walvis Bay last Thursday over the retrenchment of long-serving workers and the alleged ill treatment of staff.

Workers are unhappy that long-serving employees were being retrenched on very flimsy grounds and that they have been replaced with cheaper labour from other countries.

Disgruntled employees said they are fed up with the alleged unfair treatment Namibian workers are receiving from the company. They also demand the immediate removal of all foreign workers, whom the company favours above them.

Reading a petition on behalf of the workers, Ronnie Jenniker condemned the cancelling of their bonuses, as well as transport allowances while foreigners reportedly receive these and other benefits such as car allowances.

"Foreign employees are shipped in with no skills and knowledge and we the Namibians are to teach them. After we transfer our skills to the foreigners, the management automatically promotes them to senior positions," Jenniker charged.

Workers also demand that the foreign workers be retrenched, saying the company has nothing to gain from them. They gave the company until Friday to respond to their grievances.

"We request Sven Thieme to come and listen to our grievances. We request a meeting with him to table our grievances," Jenniker appealed.

In response the managing director of Kraatz Marine, Dirk van Niekerk rejected all allegations made by the workers, saying they are baseless and not supported by facts.

Van Niekerk said the company is guided by the Labour Act to resolve all disputes, while the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu), which the workers belong to seems to engage the company in bad faith.

Van Niekerk explained that all foreign workers are specialists in their trades and are employed after the normal recruitment process is followed and that they are in the country with valid papers.

"Our company is affirmative action compliant. We have a valid agreement with Manwu and due process is followed in all aspects with our employees," he said.

He also pointed out that the issue of transportation was referred for arbitration during August last year and the company still awaits an outcome on the matter.

On the retrenchment of employees, Van Niekerk said a realignment process is currently in place and employees were informed and this was done to create more jobs.

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