11 August 2017

Namibia: Employers' Association Calls Out Nghimtina Over Shoprite

Photo: New Era
Windhoek (file photo).

The Namibia Employers Association believes labour minister Erkki Nghimtina is biased against Shoprite over the retailer's move to discipline 100 employees for taking part in an illegal strike in 2015.

In a statement issued last week, the association said it needed to respond to "attacks launched against its member (Shoprite)", and specifically draw attention to admonishing comments made by Nghimtina on 20 July.

The association said based on Nghimtina's statements, it was clear that Shoprite would "never receive an impartial ear" from the labour ministry.

In the same breath, the association accused Nghimtina's special adviser, Vicki ya Toivo, of "conflict of interest", over past associations with Nixon Marcus Public Law Office, which represents the Shoprite workers facing disciplinary action.

The statement, issued by the association's president Cor Beuke, also accused Nghimtina of having made his admonishing remarks towards Shoprite without "verifying the facts".

Approached to comment on the conflict of interest allegations, Ya Toivo said the "suggestion that I have a conflict of interest concerning Shoprite is baseless".

"I have been present at meetings over the past three to four years conducted by the minister or deputy minister and other ministry officials with Shoprite officials and also with trade union representatives representing Shoprite workers, in the interest of promoting better labour relations and decent work at Shoprite. I have also advised the minister on various issues relating to labour relations at Shoprite. My advice to the minister is in accordance with my duties as special advisor," Ya Toivo said.

"I acknowledge that I have the status of counsel to the Nixon Marcus Public Law Office. The suggestion that I 'work' as a consultant for the firm is erroneous and misleading. I performed remunerative work for the firm on one occasion more than five years ago, but have not done so since then. I have not been involved in the disciplinary hearings handled by that firm," Ya Toivo stressed.

The NEA statement lists 19 points to rebut both Nghimtina's remarks and allegations of the unfair treatment of workers by Shoprite.

Beuke's statement also reads: "Those who are quick to judge and criticise Shoprite, including Herbert Jauch, and some legal practitioners, who have commenced a social media campaign, among others, without having the real facts before them, have done nothing other than fuel the flames of speculation and unfounded perceptions".

It is noteworthy that recent events, such as inter alia the closure of the SME Bank, the mass retrenchments in the construction industry because of non-payment by GRN, TransNamib, Air Namibia (and the list goes on and on), have received no attention whatsoever from those so quick to judge Shoprite, who must simply endure condemnation."

The association added that they "will never support any business involved in violation and exploitation of employees' rights", and that they are "firm believers in harmonious labour relations", as well as expressing a willingness to work with "government and unions to ensure sound labour relations with Shoprite".

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