Agribusdev protest 'illegal'

17 September 2019 | Labour

Agribusdev has described the actions of its workers, who demonstrated in Rundu over unpaid salaries, as illegal.

Agribusdev managing director Petrus Uugwanga said the employees were not granted permission to participate in a demonstration during working hours. Uugwanga argues that the employees and the Namibia Farm Workers Union (Nafwu), which championed yesterday's protest, should have informed Agribusev of their plan to demonstrate.

Uugwanga further argued that no declaration of unresolved dispute was registered by the office of the labour commissioner, which therefore made the protest illegal.

“The action taken by the employees of absenting themselves from work without approval is illegal and hence it must be clear that what they are currently busy with can be construed to be an illegal strike,” Uugwanga said.

“The consequences of engaging in an illegal strike shall be understood by all employees and I expect the union to know better. There is established law and institutions through which these types of disputes shall be handled.”

In a petition handed over to Kavango East regional governor Samuel Mbambo, the workers listed a number of grievances. They claimed that Agribusdev does not pay their salaries on time. Some are still waiting for their August salaries while others fear that they are not likely to be paid at the end of this month.

The workers also complained that they have not received any salary increases for a number of years and that they are struggling to feed their families.

“Since we started working for Agribusdev, we have been getting the same salary ever since, no promotion is taking place in Agribusdev,” the petition reads.

The workers further alleged that Agribusdev has been diverting their income tax and Social Security contributions.

“We found out that the money that is supposed to be paid to Social Security and Inland Revenue as tax, the company does not pay it, so Inland Revenue tells us that we owe the ministry while our payslips shows that they deducted the money,” the petition read.

Uugwanga admitted that the PAYE and Social Security deductions had not been paid over but said the matter was being resolved.

Uugwanga said Agribusdev remained committed to engaging the union to amicably address the grievances.

In May, Uugwanga had told Namibian Sun that the company's cash-flow problem had been worsened by the economic situation in the country and last year's fall armyworm infestations at irrigation schemes.

At the time Agribusdev had not paid the salaries of its workers for three months.

Uugwanga said the operational budget for Agribusdev is about N$120 million.


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