Namibia: Karibib Quarry Workers Down Tools

More than 150 workers at Best Cheer Investments Namibia (Pty) Ltd, a marble granite cutting and processing company near Karibib, downed tools on Monday, because of deadlocked salary negotiations.

The industrial action was organised by the western regional chapter of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN).

The salary negotiations date back to 2019 and the company has refused to offer any increase.

According to the union, the company persisted not to t increase salaries, citing a strained economic climate and Covid-19-related issues.

In 2020, the union revised its initial proposal which was rejected by the company.

According to the MUN's Erongo region coordinator George Ampweya, the refusal by the company to negotiate led to a deadlock which forced the union to refer the matter to the Office of the Labour Commissioner for conciliation in March 2020.

"This not only serves as an indication that the management of Best Cheer Investments Namibia continues to fail dismally in decently compensating its employees. It remains a clear indication that they would insist on perpetuating slave wages and precarious working conditions for their employees," said Ampweya.

The union is demanding that employees' basic salaries be adjusted from N$3 070 to N$4 270 with a further N$700 housing allowance for those who reside in town or as a bush allowance for those who reside on the company's quarries.

Ampweya says the strike will continue until the demands of the workers are met or when there is some consideration from the company.

He accused the company of breaking the strike rule by using other employees to do the job of the striking workers.

"This was brought to our attention and they said they would sort it out. But now they are buying marble from a different entity. This is the marble that would have been processed by those employees currently on strike," added Ampweya.

Best Cheer Investments Namibia (Pty) Ltd is part of the Chinese international corporation Best Cheer Stone Group and operates quarries on the outskirts of Karibib and Omatjete.

The company's resource manager, Lavino Plato, said they held extensive negotiations throughout with the union and genuinely considered the demands of the employees.

"The MUN and the employees fail to understand and accept the fact that 2020 was an extraordinarily difficult year for the business. It was a year that not we or anyone could have predicted or sufficiently prepared for. As a consequence, 2020 has unfortunately left the company vulnerable, [and] although our position has improved somewhat, it remains volatile," said Plato.

She added that factors such as consumer prices, product quality, demand, levies, interest, inflation and the Covid-19 pandemic have affected the company's finances, which will take time to recover.

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