Tantalite retrenchments ruffle feathers

05 September 2018 | Labour

The Mineworkers Union (MUN) has urged government to revoke the mining licence of the Namibia Tantalite Mine for failing to temporarily suspend a retrenchment exercise, as requested by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME).

The request was issued to the mine's CEO Larry Johnson, who went ahead and retrenched all 49 workers at the Warmbad mine on Friday.

The mine announced in June that it would retrench the 94 out of a total 105 employees because of a water shortage and lack of production at the mine.

An agreement on severance packages took about two months as MUN and the mine struggled to reach an agreement.

In a statement on Monday, Johnson said the mine “sadly announces the retrenchment of some of its employees”, adding that the company “did all it could before having had to take the difficult decision to retrench”.

“I assure that we have first and foremost followed the labour laws and used third-party labour experts as well as legal practitioners that are resident experts in labour to ensure that we followed the entire process,” Johnson stated. He further said negotiations were done and concluded in good faith with MUN.

“The mine would like to express its sincere gratitude to all the employees for their time and commitment at the mine,” he said.

However, MUN regional organiser, Elvis Bekele on Monday expressed: “The MUN is very disappointed with the conduct and disrespect of the CEO of this mine after the MME requested him to suspend the retrenchment exercise for further engagement with the ministry in a meeting to take place on 10 September 2018.”

He explained that the parties where still negotiating on alternatives to save the jobs at the mine and made clear that the MUN cannot tolerate such behaviour from investors who undermine the highest authority in this country.

“In this country we cannot work with investors who do not respect our government, the law of this country and the Namibian people at large, we are not going to entertain that at all, this is total nonsense,” Bekele stressed.

In a letter dated 30 August 2018 to the CEO and seen by this news agency, the MME requested Johnson for a meeting on 10 September 2018 for him to elaborate and for government to fully understand the retrenchment exercise the mine intends to undertake. “In the meanwhile I request that you suspend the retrenchment proceedings until we have engaged,” reads the letter.

Upon enquiry, Johnson said that he was not aware of the letter from MME and only became aware of it on Monday after his personal assistant told him.

“I was not aware of it until Monday when my PA told me. Due to a death in the family, I am out of office, and yes I did accept to attend the meeting because I respect the government,” he added.

The mine earlier announced that it would recruit a skeleton crew consisting of 10 to 20 people once the retrenchments were done.

NAMPA

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