Namibia: Nwr Starts Voluntary Retrenchment

Namibia Wildlife Resorts has embarked on voluntary retrenchment and early retirement options in a bid to contain and control its operational costs.

The resorts company is offering various packages to those willing to go home, and targets to offload 250 workers to get to a healthy financial position.

The organisation's spokesperson Mufaro Nesongano, who spoke to The Namibian yesterday, noted that they have not retrenched before despite the country recording zero tourist arrivals during the lockdown and the domestic travel restrictions.

Asked if the strategy failed, Nesongano said they have devised two strategies, which are voluntary retrenchment and early retirement, and with them they hope to reach their target of reducing their wage bill.

"The voluntary separation exercise is to align NWR staff numbers in light of the impact that Covid-19 has had in the tourism sector. From 22 September 2020 up until 22 October 2020, NWR has provided its staff members with an opportunity to separate from the organisation voluntarily," Nesongano added in a statement.

The retrenchments come after the board of directors and senior management took 25% salary cuts. However, it seems the management salary cuts were insufficient to improve the company's financial position, leading to a cost-cutting plan, which targeted labour streaming. The executive committee submitted the plan to the board and it was subsequently approved.

OFFERED

The company has offered two weeks' salary for every year of uninterrupted service as severance pay to the employees.

Any leave balance as at 30 September 2020, up to a maximum of 60 days, will be paid out, while any accrued leave days above 60 will be paid at 50% of the excess days.

NWR has also offered employees entitled to an annual birthday bonus, a proportion equal to the months since the last bonus was paid out.

The employees will also get one month's salary instead of notice, with the total pension fund credit in line with the pension laws.

Lastly, NWR will transport the workers and their belongings to their place of normal residence in Namibia.

NWR managing director Matthias Ngwangwama said based on worldwide experiences, the company is aware that it would be difficult to have the same staff profile pre-Covid.

"Most companies around the world have begun following the same trend to find ways of reducing their wage bill and other operational costs," he noted.

TOURISM RETRENCHMENTS

Even though with appeasing packages, NWR is now joining the rest of the tourism-related companies that have retrenched around 3 782 workers from January to 21 September 2020.

Out of the 3 782, more than 1 400 were retrenched between July and 21 September 2020.

Tourism-related business is facing the hardest year in its operation due to global lockdown because of Covid-19-imposed measures.

The imposed measures led to a few to non arrival of tourists in the country - given the sector's overdependence on external markets for revenue - while only a small portion of their revenue is derived from local travel.

The Namibian quizzed Nesongano on the sector's dependence on external visitors, while domestic tourism lags behind, given the purchasing power of the local economy indicated by the average income of the economy. Nesongano responded by explaining that in terms of affordability NWR is among the few accommodation establishments that cater for domestic travellers with reduced fees. He said together with Gondwana, they have devised products for the locals.

He added that local travellers also need to understand that there are different products available that can enable them to afford travelling around the country at a cheap cost.

This is through camping on NWR facilities, instead of white sheets that might prove costly to many considering average wages in the country.

Nesongano added that locals just have to choose accommodation platforms that suit their budget.

The country is gradually opening up for visitors. Apart from entering the country through the Hosea Kutako International Airport, three more borders have opened for people to enter the country.

The latest update from the High Economic Intelligence on the sector, indicated the arrival of travellers at the Hosea Kutako International Airport declined by 98,5% over the 12 months.

The report validated the job-shedding, as the tourism sector recorded a drop in arrivals (foreign travellers) from 45 585 by the end of August last year to just 1 109 arrivals by the end of August 2020.

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