Namibia: Union Takes On August 26 Over Retrenchments

NAMIBIA Food and Allied Workers Union general secretary Jacob Penda claims August 26 Textile and Garment Factory is closing due to an alleged theft of N$25,7 million from the company.

The workers were informed on 15 January that they will be retrenched on 28 February.

The company which employs 86 workers, is 100% government-owned, with the Ministry of Defence holding the shares on behalf of the state. Penda claims that during two meetings the union held with the company's board last Wednesday and on Monday this week, it was revealed that money was stolen from the company, which is why the factory is now cash-stripped.

"They [board] said N$25,7 million was stolen (by someone) within the company and that the company was not making profit. Where is this stolen money coming from if it was stolen from the company's account?" he asked. Penda did not provide further details on the theft.

He said the company intends absorbing the workers in different subsidiaries of August 26 Holding Company, which has 10 subsidiaries. Sceptical about where the workers will be absorbed, Penda questioned how the company will place workers according to skills.

"Is there any subsidiary within the holding company that is doing textiles apart from the subsidiary that intendeds retrenching workers?" he asked.

"How will someone employed as a textile trimmer be deployed within the holding company? As a trimmer, am I able to do logistics at the other subsidiary or advertise insurance?" he continued.

Penda has called for the planned retrenchment at the textile and garment factory to be shelved until the missing money has been accounted for.

"We are asking them to put this retrenchment on hold until we get the right information and the issue of the missing money has been dealt with.We must find alternatives to keep employment of these people in the current entity," he added.

Penda said although the workers were only informed about the retrenchments this month, the board of the holding company informed him on Monday that they have been planning for this for the past two years.

"For the past two years they planned for the closure of this business and did not make any effort to have a meeting with the employees and share the problems or the company's financial difficulties they alleged," he said.

Penda said the union requested the company them with more information in writing by tomorrow and to discuss this information with the union next week.

"In the absence of relevant information, we cannot take it up to the next level. Relevant structures have to intervene to secure employment of these people rather than retrench them," he said.

The company's managing director Silas Amunyela declined to comment when approached by The Namibian.

He said he would only speak to the media next Tuesday after the scheduled meeting with the workers and their union.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the workers said she feels uneasy about the possibility of being retrenched since she is the breadwinner in her family and mother of three.

"It's not easy being unemployed. It will be extremely difficult to take care of my children and other family [members]. So all of this makes me feel very sad," she said.

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