NEWS that the August 26 Textile and Garment Factory plans retrenching more than half of its workforce has sent a panic wave among workers although, the Ministry of Defence has dismissed reports that it plans to close the company.
The company employs 86 workers, 70 of whom are women. Social media reports suggest that the company is on the verge of closure, hence the retrenchments.
According to the factory's shop-steward, Lucas Noodi, the staff were told yesterday morning that they will be retrenched on 28 February.
"This came as a shock to us workers, just to be told that we are being laid off because the company apparently does not have money. This can't be, because according to reliable sources, we recently got a tender from Debmarine in addition to the other ongoing tenders we are working on," Noodi said.
Ali Shiimi, a thread cutter who has been working at the factory for eight years, told The Namibian she feels betrayed.
"Imagine coming from the holidays and being told you only have a month's salary after having a stable salary for all these years. Now, if we go, who will do the work? So then it is true that they want us to leave so that they can get other workers?" Shiimi asked.
The deputy general secretary of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), Absalom Willem, who was also at the meeting yesterday, agreed with the workers that the retrenchments were unfair.
"How can they send people home if the company has clients? We are going to address this further on Monday," Willem said.
Meanwhile, a senior official in the Ministry of Defence has quashed reports of an imminent closure of the company.
The company, the official said, will instead be merged with the shoe factory owned by the August 26 Holding Group.
The unnamed official was responding to a post circulating on social media, which says the Namibian Defence Force has "decided to fire 100 workers" and close the factory.
The textile and garment factory as well as the shoe factory are subsidiaries of the August 26 Holding Company, which is 100% government-owned, with the Ministry of Defence holding the shares on behalf of the government.
The senior official in the defence ministry, who asked not to be named, told Nampa yesterday that the ministry does not plan closing any of its companies.
"We are aware of the post suggesting that the NDF has decided to fire 100 of its workers by closing down August 26 textiles. This is false and devoid of any truth," the official said.
He explained that they started a reorganisation exercise last year during a meeting of August 26 Holdings, where it was decided to merge the two factories.
When the two companies merge, the employees of both will be required to reapply for their positions in the new company, the official said.
He further said the ministry will release official communication soon to provide clarity on the matter.
Speaking to the media the same day on the factory's premises, employees of the August 26 Textile and Garment Factory said they were apparently informed of the closure of the factory during a meeting with the union and a representative of the factory.
- Additional reporting by Nampa