The national rail operator, TransNamib, yesterday lashed out at the company’s sole bargaining agent, the National Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau), calling recent statements by the union not only irresponsible but also devoid of any truth.
The union last week embarked on a peaceful nationwide demonstration in frustration of what they call contentious labour matters, including long-standing wage disputes and the recently reported retrenchment of 340 staff from the rail parastatal.
“Even more irresponsible are their calls and intentions for daily nationwide demonstrations at company premises,” read the statement from TransNamib spokesperson Abigail Raubenheimer.
The company has been dogged by inferior and outdated rail infrastructure that led to 195 accidents during the last four years, causing the deaths of 12 people.
Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste recently appointed an accounting firm, EY, to investigate the affairs of the national railway company.
The statement also confirmed recent media reports based on leaked correspondence between TransNamib and the public enterprises minister of plans to retrench 340 employees.
“The company can confirm that there are plans to right-size, through a wholly voluntary exercise involving some 340 employees who are either within retirement age and or those employees within the
former non-core areas of the company’s business that the company has since closed as part of the implementation of the ISBP (Integrated Strategic Business Plan),” the statement continued.
TransNamib, however, confirmed no employees will be forced to leave through the retrenchment exercise.
“Should the company, however, not achieve the targeted figures as envisaged through this exercise, the company will revisit this exercise in the future, as the company is presently overstaffed at this stage,” the company said.
TransNamib explained rightsizing is a critical and gearing exercise central to turning around the fortunes of the company as envisaged through the ISBP.
“It is, therefore, baffling that our social partner in Natau states that they are hearing of these plans by the company in the media when we have been discussing the ISBP, which they have had since 2018… Management fully intends to engage all of the employees of the company to fully explain and dispel all of the negativity that has been labelled against this rightsizing exercise also in the next few weeks.”
According to the statement, one of the initiatives the company’s management undertakes on a regular basis and at least once every quarter is to meet with the Natau leadership.
Raubenheimer added, apart from wage negotiations, the two parties regularly meet to consult on matters of mutual interest.
“Whilst we are in the process of transforming this company, we will continue doing so in the interests of the company, its employees and its shareholder… Management will, therefore, remain focussed on its tasks to implement and progress on the ISBP. We will, therefore, not lower ourselves to become personal in matters, as we believe we need to remain professional in our duty at all times… Whilst we will not go into the detail of all the matters brought forward by the union, we are awaiting confirmation on further engagements with the union to amicably resolve these matters in a professional manner. We do, however, feel that we need to address the matter of the widely reported retrenchment as placed by the media.”
Responding yesterday to TransNamib’s statement, general secretary at Natau Narina Pollmann said: “We are not going to entertain the back-and-forth media statements. If we call ourselves social partners, then let us come to the table and address the issues”.
Speaking to New Era, Pollmann noted the union attended a conciliation meeting on 24 September, where they received a Certificate of Unresolved Dispute.
Despite this, Pollmann noted, “We can still meet as soon as possible to find an amicable solution”. She added the TransNamib board has scheduled a meeting for 5 October to address the outstanding issues with the union.