Cheetah Cement employees march for safety

Workers at the Chinese-owned cement factory claim that they are threatened with a gun if they inquire about work issues.

26 April 2021 | Labour

ESTER KAMATI

OTJIWARONGO

Employees of Cheetah Cement at Otjiwarongo on Friday held a demonstration to complain about gun threats at the workplace and a lack of protective equipment while performing high-risk jobs.

In a petition, the workers claimed that a senior Chinese employee, who previously had been charged with assaulting another employee at work, carries a firearm and uses it to threaten those who enquire about work-related matters.

According to the employees, no action has been taken against the employee in question.

Human resources manager Zayne Koortz said that was because the employee who had been threatened had refused to give a statement.

He added that the police had been involved although no case was opened.

He further affirmed that guns are not permitted at work and that an internal investigation is under way.

Koortz refused to comment on allegations that the company had tried to bribe the said employee to keep quiet about the incident.

Safety

The petition further highlighted that employees have been working with inappropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for nearly three years.

“A lab technician working with corrosive and flammable chemicals wears the same PPE as an office employee,” it states.

Employees demanded the immediate issuance of PPE that complies with regulations on safety wear in the mining industry.

“We had the safety inspector from the ministry of labour who did an audit in February, which showed we were compliant with most of the laws,” stated Koortz.

“They are asking for more PPE than is required by industry standards. We have improved vastly from where we started.”

Demands

Employees further demanded immediate dismissal of Koortz, stating that he had reduced their hourly pay rates without consulting their union, and threatens to dismiss Namibian employees when they try to exercise their democratic rights.

“We demand that the company and immigration selection board revise all work permits or extension of visas of all Chinese nationals at the company,” read the petition, while stating that foreigners with unnecessary job descriptions are taking up jobs that Namibians can perform.

In addition, foreign nationals are allegedly recruited without any vacancies being advertised internally or externally.

The petition was read by Mineworkers Union regional chairperson Naftal Nghipitwako and received by general manager Kevin Lee.

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