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Natau wants Smith sacked

2022-07-19  Maihapa Ndjavera

Natau wants Smith sacked

The Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union has reacted to the court’s decision to halt its industrial action at TransNamib with a demand that heads must roll.

Natau general secretary Narina Pollmann said the national rail service operator’s CEO Johny Smith and executive of human capital Webster Gonzo are at the centre of serious allegations, which were leaked through a report compiled by audit firm Ernest and

Pollmann stressed the mentioned officials are fuelling labour unrest and harm to the company, as they are conflicted and not objective. 

Natau is giving the TransNamib board 48 hours to action against the officials, saying the union has been patient with the officials since 2019.

“We are serious this time and will make it a point that misconduct of entrusted senior officials will not be condoned anymore,” she noted.

Approached for comment yesterday afternoon, TransNamib indicated they needed more time to respond.

TransNamib employees’ industrial action, which was supposed to start yesterday, was put on a temporary halt after High Court Judge George Coleman ordered the hold in abeyance pending the finalisation of the urgent application filed by TransNamib. 

TransNamib claimed Natau did not follow strike rules issued by the conciliator on 7 July. 

At a media briefing yesterday, Natau said they followed all procedures and rules as prescribed in the recognition agreement and Labour Act.

“We are not going to dwell much on procedures not followed; let the court take its course as far as the union is concerned,” said Natau general secretary Narina Pollmann.

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

Pollmann said the union has maintained patriotism throughout negotiations since 2019 to date, which was taken for granted by TransNamib. 

Among many demands from the union is wage hikes.

She added Natau has exhausted all relevant avenues – from management to the board, line and labour ministry – to no avail. 

In the final attempt, she stated the union met the board on 17 June 2022, where they promised to look into the demands presented.

“The response letter from the board was a total insult and disregard of the employees of TransNamib. The content of the response and its tone speaks to how low they think about the employees and the union,” Pollmann sighed.


Union demands

A petition, dated 6 June 2022, directed to TransNamib board chair Lionel Matthews from Natau, actioned the board to recover from the executives the performance bonus, which they, according to them, splashed out on themselves illegally and unduly. 

Also, remove from TransNamib the unlawfully implemented total cost to company conditions for lower-level employees without proper and due consultation with the union by the management and put back all the employees’ conditions until the processes have been followed and we agree as partners. 

The union further called on the company to halt the envisaged sale of property, especially ones occupied by the employees of the company until the two parties negotiate on a plan of how employees can buy these houses.


Board response

In its response letter, dated 7 July 2022, to the petition they received, Matthews said on wage demands, due to the financial position of the company, no salary increment will be offered to the employees. 

He added, in line with the execution of the integrated strategic business plan, a number of non-core properties were identified for alienations. 

He explained TransNamib cannot finance the acquisition of properties by tenant employees. 


Financial position

According to Smith, since the outbreak of the pandemic, which affected Namibia since March 2020, and which currently continues, TransNamib 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.

In March 2022, the company secured a long-term loan of N$2.6 billion from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) in partnership with the Development Bank of Namibia to implement its five-year business plan. 

The loan will be used for the remanufacturing of rolling stock, the acquisition of new rolling stock and modernisation of the workshop as well as the upgrading of signalling equipment, including spares and associated

TransNamib’s integrated annual report for 2019/20 stated the company remained in a challenging financial position, despite an improvement in its business operations. 

The two main challenges remain its short-term cash flow position as well as limited capacity with respect to the number of locomotives serving its operations.

Furthermore, for the 2019/20 financial year, TransNamib’s revenue increased by N$20 million to N$542 million, whilst operating costs increased by N$72 million to N$885 million.

2022-07-19  Maihapa Ndjavera

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