MUN sharpens claws on Skorpion

07 April 2020 | Labour

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) has accused mines minister Tom Alweendo of misleading government, saying it has not been allowed to present its case regarding Skorpion Zinc Mine, which is set to enter care and maintenance.

Skorpion spokesperson Nora Ndopu announced last month that care and maintenance was on the cards.

“The decision to place Skorpion on care and maintenance will affect around 1 500 employees,” she added.

The union is demanding another meeting with the minister today, despite previous pronouncements made by Alweendo. He wrote to Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila last week that an agreement had been reached in 2017 that the mine would be closed this year. “The decision to stop mining the current pit at Skorpion Zinc was taken during 2017 where [an] agreement between the company and the MUN was reached that the operation will be a three-year project that will come to an end by May 2020,” Alweendo wrote.





He had also informed Kuugongelwa-Amadhila that both the MUN and Skorpion Zinc had initiated meetings that are looking to conclude severance packages for the affected workers.

“During the meeting, we learnt that the MUN and the company [Skorpion] have started to negotiate a retrenchment agreement that will be submitted to the labour commissioner in the next two days,” Alweendo wrote.

He added that the closure of the mine was not related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen several mines being asked to cut back their activities.

“The company's decision is not in any way as a result of the coronavirus state of emergency. It is a culmination of events and discussions between the company and the employees that started already in 2017.”



Misinformation

When called for comment, MUN branch chairperson Peterson Kambinda denounced the statement made by Alweendo.

“He is trying to misinform government, it is not correct,” Kambinda said.

“He asked the deputy secretary-general of MUN what was happening at the Skorpion Zinc Mine and he was informed that negotiations are still ongoing,” he said.

According to Kambinda, MUN had written to President Hage Geingob that they were not happy with the situation at the mine.

Kambinda claimed that both the union and Vedanta, which owns the mine, would present their respective cases for the future of the mine, adding that the ore in the pit had not been completely extracted.

Alweendo expressed concern about the closure of the mine, saying it was unfortunate that jobs would be lost.

“It is an unfortunate thing. This whole thing of the mine going into care and maintenance has been there since 2017.

“I am not in any way trying to say I am not concerned about people losing their jobs,” said Alweendo.

According to him, efforts were also made on the part of Vedanta to secure the future of the mine, but these efforts could endanger the lives of workers and were thus futile.

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