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Air Namibia workers camp for severance pay

2022-11-17  Maihapa Ndjavera

Air Namibia workers camp for severance pay

Some former Air Namibia employees are camping at the liquidated national airline offices due to unpaid severance packages. 

On behalf of the employees, Renier Bougard confirmed they have been sleeping at the liquidated company’s headquarters since Monday. 

They intend to stay there until the liquidators, David Bruni and Ian McLaren, reach out to them. 

“We stay here throughout the night, 24 hours, just sitting and waiting until this issue is resolved. We will only walk away from here when we receive our full payment,” he said.

According to Bougard, the former employees have been waiting for more than 20 months for their severance payment.

Air Namibia was liquidated after government, as the sole shareholder, pulled the plug in March 2020 after it emerged that the airline accumulated about N$3.5 billion in debt and a government-guaranteed debt of N$2.58 billion.

When government announced the liquidation in 2020, it stated it could no longer sustain Air Namibia and, therefore, it would be impossible for the airline to trade out of insolvency. 

The obsolete national airline’s debt comprised N$2.3 billion owed to trade creditors and N$693 million in unpaid taxes.

According to a report on 4 August 2021 by Bruni and McLaren, Air Namibia still owed N$105.5 million in unpaid severance packages to former employees.

Bank loans afforded to the collapsed airline totalled over N$408 million, while its assets have been valued at N$1.1 billion.

What angered the employees further is the fact that their severance packages will no longer be paid at a cost to company. They protested against this on Monday.

“We are here today, camping out, waiting for our severance packages to be paid, that is owed to us. It’s not something that we are asking. It’s something that is entitled to us because of the number of years that we worked for the company. That’s what we are here for. We have been waiting now for more than 20 months for the severance packages to be paid out,” said Bougard at the campsite.

He further stressed that liquidators have informed the former employees last week Friday that they are willing or able to pay within 30 days.

Bougard added there is a dispute regarding the amounts they signed off on the last day of their work: “However, we understand there is a different amount they want to pay. We don’t have concrete evidence, and we can’t meet with them to refute the claim at the moment”.

According to him, they only want the liquidators to come to the table to get an understanding as to whether they will honour the claim that the former employees signed off initially under the total cost of company in good faith, “instead of playing around”.

On the way forward, Bougard said they drafted some letters to Bruni and McLaren, as well as to the Master of the High Court to inform them as to what is going on. 

“There is also a labour case pending, which they asked us to withdraw. We don’t have a problem to withdraw the case but we have to come to an agreement that they will honour the claims that we signed off under oath,” he stressed.

Furthermore, he added there have been efforts to engage the acting public enterprise minister Ipumbu Shiimi for the past 20 months but it proved futile for him to assist in resolving the matter.

Attempts to reach liquidators Bruni and McLaren, as well as Shiimi proved futile at the time of going to press. 

2022-11-17  Maihapa Ndjavera

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