Minister’s intervention staves off petrol station strike

Home Business Minister’s intervention staves off petrol station strike

WINDHOEK – The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare intervened late on Friday afternoon to delay a planned strike by more than 3000 service station attendants throughout the country.

The intervention, which was facilitated by the acting Permanent Secretary, Albius Mwiya, has now given the Association of Service Station Owners (ASSO) until June 30, 2014, to negotiate with the Namibia Fuel and Allied Workers Union (Nafawu) to establish a minimum wage for service station employees. According to David Frans, Secretary General of Nafawu, last Friday’s meeting resulted in a resolution that gives the two parties until the end of this month to iron out their differences. “There is no need for us to strike now because the Ministry of Labour has assured us that this industry will be regulated,” explained Frans. He added that the two parties have two options, which is either to negotiate and agree on a minimum wage or to have a minimum wage determined by a Wages Commission that would be established by the Labour Minister. “Before the end of this year a minimum wage for service station attendants will be in effect,” continued Frans. 

During past meetings Nafawu accused ASSO of delaying tactics, while negotiating for a minimum wage for service station employees. The union has proposed a minimum wage of N$4 500 per month. According to Frans the union has written to ASSO on several occasions seeking its intervention to engage the union as a registered employers organisation, but to date the association has refused to give in to its requests. 

Frans alleges that ASSO inserted a clause in its constitution to prevent it from dealing with labour matters on behalf of employees. According to the union, some service station employees are paid as little as N$250 per month, while some receive N$1.80 per hour every Friday. “These rich, foreign companies operate 24 hours, shipping our money out of the country to enrich their countries at the expense of our people. This cannot be tolerated anymore. We are sick and tired of foreign companies which think they are operating on an island, where they cannot be called to order,” Frans said during a previous media briefing on the same subject. He further claims that several union members have allegedly died as a result of the constant exposure to hazardous fumes, while manning the fuel pumps.

ASSO chairperson Rupert Harmse yesterday told New Era that if the minimum wage of N$4500 is approved it would have a huge ‘ripple affect’ that will impact all Namibians. According to him the minimum wage demanded by Nafawu could push the fuel price up by about N$2 per litre. This, he said, would have a knock on effect on practically all goods in the country. Harmse also challenged the union to provide proof of its total signed and paid up membership. He confirmed that ASSO has appointed a private labour consultant to assist in the labour dispute.

By Edgar Brandt