Erongo Governor calls on companies to prioritize good labour relations as former Metal Mill workers are re-employed
By Adolf Kaure.
The Governor of Erongo, Neville André called on companies from all sectors to prioritize good labour relations and maintain conducive standards to attract more investment for the country.
He made the remarks during a recent press briefing to provide feedback from the Office of the Governor’s mediation efforts between the striking workers and Metal Mill. “Therefore, it remains our conviction that we truly are united and will advance equality, dignity, sustainability, and fairness in the workplace,” he said.
The mediation process led to the re-appointment of eleven former employees, who were previously let go by Metal Mill with another 23 absorbed by the industry. “I am pleased to announce that negotiations between all parties resulted in the re-employment of 11 former employees at Metal Mill increasing its headcount to 31,” said André.
As part of the mediation process, mining operator Andrada agreed to absorb an additional 10 of the former employees into available vacancies in its engineering department resulting in 21 of the former employees being re-instated between the two companies.
Andrada has further committed to prioritise the balance of the former employees for an additional 16 non-artisanal jobs at the Uis Mine to be available as of March 2023.
“We are further happy to note that the Uis Mine employs over 300 Namibian citizens thereby contributing to the economic livelihoods of local and national communities. And that they are fully committed to strengthening job creation and local skills development,” he said.
The mediation process involved the chairperson of the Erongo Regional Council, Benitha Imbamba, being tasked with assessing the situation and providing a report to the council on the matter.
Upon receiving the report, governor André said that ne noted that both parties acted contrary to certain parts of the Labour Act provisions.
BACKGROUND OF DISPUTE:
Metal Mill provides engineering and maintenance services through a long-term agreement to Andrada’s Uis Mine. The appointment of Metal Mills aligns to Andrada’ s focus of developing local as well as national small and medium enterprises in Namibia.
Approaching the expiry period of the Metal Mill contracts on 31 December 2022, the management offered a two-year extension to 31 December 2024 to all its 47 employees.
The new contracts were in line with the minimum wages for the Construction Industries Federation of Namibia and the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union as regulated by a collective agreement.
Wages paid by Metal Mill to its employees were between 6% and 116% higher than those prescribed in the Federations collective agreement.
The employees collectively decided not to accept the extension of their contracts because their demand for the hourly wage rate to be increased to N$90 per hour across the board was not accepted by Metal Mill management.
The demanded increase equated to an average increase of 118 %, varying between 31% and 480% of current employee packages.
Following the expiry of the contracts, Metal Mill appointed 20 new employees in January 2023 to ensure continuity of its service offering.
This resulted in an intervention by the Governor of Erongo during January 2023 in the interest of promoting sustainable employment and improved labour relations in the region as well as to find an optimal solution going forward.