8 March 2013

Namibia: Nafwu Accused of Ignoring Arbitration Order

THE Namibia Farmworkers Union (Nafwu) has reportedly not complied with an arbitration order by the Office of the Labour Commissioner which stated that it had to reinstate three dismissed workers and compensate them for loss of income from June to December 2012.

The union had 30 days within which it could appeal the order given on January 2, but has reportedly failed to do so.

The outcome of the Labour Commissioner's ruling has been filed with the High Court, and thus becomes a decision of that court.

In terms of the order, Nafwu has to reinstate Abraham Onesmus, Obed Afrikaner and Jacqueline Nikanor and pay them N$15 923,15, N$12 738,40, and N$50 571,90 respectively. These amounts were supposed to have been paid out by January 15, but have reportedly not been paid yet.

Upon returning to the union office on January 14, the workers were issued a letter signed by the newly elected presidents of Nafwu, Ronelle de Jongh and Asser Hendricks, which stated that the union intended to challenge the arbitration award, and as such, they were to vacate the company premises and had no right to use the union's facilities.

The three were dismissed by acting National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) secretary general Alfred Angula on June 19 last year.

The then NUNW secretary general, Evilastus Kaaronda, said the retrenchments were unfair and he had requested an urgent meeting with the then leadership of Nafwu to address the matter.

Angula at the time said the retrenchments were necessary because the union did not have sufficient funds. He was earlier requested to produce financial records to the Labour Commission, but failed to do so.

Sources close to the union said that Angula was the only one with signing rights to the union's bank accounts.

They doubted that Nafwu did not have sufficient funds to pay its workers, saying besides membership fees, the union also received sponsorship from a Belgian non-governmental organisation.

Nafwu's non-compliance with the arbitration award has been reported to the Ministry of Labour, which has embarked on a sale of execution of the union's assets to enforce the payment set out in the arbitration order.

A source preferring anonymity said Angula had time until February 2 to either apply for a rescission or review of the January 2 arbitration award, or to appeal to the High Court.

"He is deliberately trying to give the workers a tough time. He is freely disregarding the labour law," the source said. "Perhaps the NUNW leadership that has enlisted Angula as the acting SG and forced him upon the NUNW members shows that everyone can disregard the law. The current leadership of the NUNW shows that it can be done."

When contacted for comment, Angula said he could not talk because he was in a bank. Subsequent calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

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