Nafinu blast Nedbank as ‘worst employer’

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Nafinu blast Nedbank as ‘worst employer’

The Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu), the largest trade union representing workers in the local financial sector, has come out guns blazing against Nedbank Namibia, accusing the bank of being the worst employer in the sector and not respecting local labour laws. 

In a statement issued last week by Nafinu’s general secretary Asnath Zamuee, the union particularly took issue with how the bank tried to circumvent and undermine recognised labour laws and processes during this year’s salary negotiations deadlock. 

“After reaching a deadlock in the 2023 salary and benefit negotiations, we referred a dispute to the Office of the Labour Commissioner. Nedbank opted to circumvent the dispute by terminating our recognition agreement without following the due process as provided for in the Labour Act, 11 of 2007, just to avoid the dispute,” said Zamuee.

“They [Nedbank] cited that we had fallen below recognition levels but we have had the same members since last year and it was not an issue. The right of workers to self-organisation and freedom of association is an inherent right protected by the Constitution and upheld by the Labour Act and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. Nobody should deprive workers of this freedom to associate or interfere in their exercise of this right.”

The veteran unionist added: “This step taken by Nedbank confirms our assertion that Nedbank is one of the worst employers within Namibia’s financial sector. Indeed, the actions of Nedbank are abhorrent and tantamount to union bashing. Back in 2015, they employed the same tactics with the aim of getting rid of the union. However, the workers decided to remain with Nafinu.”

“For example, in 2009 when we first unionised Nedbank, the bank refused to recognise any trade union and equally refused to deal with us, even though we had the majority of its workers as our members. 

“We had to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to ask for their intervention before they could recognise us as the bargaining agent for its employees. This is also the only bank we have been embroiled in legal fights in courts with because they lack the capacity to address labour disputes. They are not solution-oriented,” she stated.

Zamuee further accused Nedbank’s managing director Martha Murorua of introducing casualisation within the bank’s workforce. 

Casualisation is the process of transforming a workforce from one employed chiefly on permanent contracts, to one engaged on a short-term or casual basis.

“In recent years, to be more specific, since the arrival of the current managing director Martha Murorua, casualisation has become an increasingly visible problem, with the bank adapting and using disciplinary action in labour casualisation of employees. We are getting the distinct impression that workers are a mere disposable commodity to them.

“Certainly, we shall not stand idle while our members are victimised. In this regard, we are busy consulting our lawyers to secure a legal opinion on the matter while also mobilising our members on a possible cause of action towards the real fight in defence for our members and workers.”

In response, Nedbank spokesperson Selma Kaulinge said the relationship between the bank and Nafinu had been guided by an interim recognition agreement, which was signed by the parties in November 2010.  

“The interim recognition agreement, as per the contents of such agreement, was a collective agreement between the bank and Nafinu in terms of which the union was recognised as a registered union for purposes of formalising and regulating the relationship between the union, and employer.  In the collective agreement, the union is recognised as the bargaining agent of its members within a certain bargaining unit. 

 Nafinu was not recognised as the exclusive bargaining agent of all employees within the bargaining unit, as provided for under section 64 of the Labour Act, Act 11 of 2007,” she explained.

Kaulinge further said in accordance with the stipulations of the interim recognition agreement, particularly paragraph 10.2, the agreement itself automatically terminates once the union no longer has majority membership in respect of the bargaining unit. 

She stated that Nafinu was forthwith informed on 24 May 2023 that this particular stipulation of automatic termination had come into effect. 

The bank continued that it asserts and reserves its rights in terms of the various statements made and published, which are intended to cause significant reputational harm and spread unfortunate falsehoods. 

“Some of these matters are currently under legal review, and given their malicious intent and false assertion of fact, will be dealt with through legal recourse. 

“We maintain that we have always conducted ourselves in a respectable manner and with due regard to the wellbeing of our employees, having offered a salary increase of 7%, excluding additional value and benefits, that is above the current inflationary rate of 6.1%, which was summarily dismissed by Nafinu based on their demand of 10%,” noted Kaulinge.