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Court derails TransNamib strike

2022-07-18  Maria Amakali

Court derails TransNamib strike

TransNamib on Saturday managed to convince the High Court to put a temporary halt to the planned industrial action by its workers that was scheduled to start today.

“The first respondent (Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union) undertakes to keep the strike, scheduled for Monday, 18 July 2022 in abeyance, pending the finalisation of this urgent application,” High Court judge George Coleman ordered.

The court further ordered Natau to inform its members urgently of the court’s order. Workers want to strike for better pay.

The ruling follows an urgent application filed on Friday by TransNamib, seeking a court interdict that will restrain Natau from conducting an industrial action in the form of a strike without having fully complied with the strike rules issued by the conciliator on
7 July.

Furthermore, the court was asked to order Natau to publish on two of its official social media pages and/or chat groups an official communication in writing that the intended nationwide strike will no longer take place. 

According to TransNamib CEO Jonny Smith, should the strike have proceeded, it would be unlawful as Natau failed to follow the strike rules as set out by the conciliator, something to which both parties agreed after failed wage negotiations.

Some of the rules stipulated that a strike ballot should be conducted to see how many employees are in support of strike action or not; TransNamib will not allow non-striking employees to perform the duties of those on strike; TransNamib should not hire scab workers to replace striking employees; the no-work, no-pay policy shall apply during the industrial action; no disciplinary action will be taken against striking workers; and Natau and/or its members will be held liable for any legal action which may occur during the strike.

It was also agreed that striking employees must return to work after three days of the industrial action. 

Smith claims that the union carried out a strike ballot on 28 April, despite the conciliator advising against it – rendering it unlawful, as it was done before the strike rules were set.  The ‘illegal’ strike ballot also fails to conform to the terms of collective bargaining.

He says TransNamib was never afforded the opportunity to be part of the ballot process.

On 7 July, the union informed TransNamib that they would be carrying out an industrial action on 18 July, without conducting the strike ballot after the strike rules were set.

Smith says if the industrial action proceeds, the railway company will suffer immensely.

“Since the pandemic of Covid-19, which affected Namibia since March 2020 and which currently continues, the applicant has been operating at a loss of N$15 million to N$20 million monthly. 

In addition, thereto, the State’s subsidies have been reduced drastically,” he explained.

The court has since postponed the matter to 29 July to give an opportunity to Natau to give their side of the story.

In a letter directed to TransNamib on Saturday, the union’s secretary general Narina Pollmann said they could not respond in time as there was no lawyer who could assist them. Furthermore, she was not available due to medical reasons.

“In the meantime, please take note that the envisaged strike has been put in abeyance, pending the advice from an enlisted legal practitioner who may only come on record on Monday (today). Be assured that the union wants to comply with the strike rules and relevant laws, and opposing the matter in court at this stage will be waste of time and resources. However, we want to ensure that we are also legally advised to do the right thing,” Pollmann added.

Natau’s national coordinator Helvi Hamukoshi yesterday confirmed that the strike is on hold pending the application filed by TransNamib with the Labour Court. She said more details would be shared today at a press briefing.

2022-07-18  Maria Amakali

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