Workers underpaid at Wu's housing project

Subcontractors at the Kaisosi housing project in Rundu are said to be paying their workers far below the minimum wage.

19 June 2020 | Labour

KENYA KAMBOWE

RUNDU



Labourers recruited by subcontractors building houses for prominent Chinese businesswoman Stina Wu are paid far below the minimum wage.

At the site in Rundu's Kaisosi location, workers are forced to accept between N$60 and N$100 per day on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

This while the minimum wage is N$135 a day.

Namibian Sun recently reported that Wu's company, Helmsman Group, terminated the previous subcontractor's contract.

Northern Land Civil Engineering was accused of paying workers N$108 per day.



Inferior sand

Allegations about Northern Land's use of inferior sand in the building process have also surfaced.

According to building inspectors, loam soil compromises the quality of structures.

The termination of that contract saw about 120 workers left jobless.

Prior to the termination of the contract, Northern Land CEO Immanuel Shilongo said the use of the inferior sand was a result of poor funding from the principal contractor.



From bad to worse

After terminating the contract, the group appointed one of its own companies, Gladimar CC.

Four subcontractors were also appointed to construct houses at the Kaisosi housing project.

Prior to the appointment, the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) had been in contact with Helmsman with regards to 33 workers who were laid off by Northern Land.

The parties came to an understanding and entered into a memorandum of understanding, dated 5 June.

A copy of that agreement seen by Namibian Sun shows that all 33 workers would be reinstated and resume work from 8 June.

However, on Monday, Namibian Sun received a call from a disgruntled group who form part of the 33 workers.



N$60 per day

They said while some were called back to work, others were not.

Furthermore, those who were reinstated were informed that they would be paid N$60 per day.

The group also expressed their dissatisfaction over Manwu representative Richard Matengu, who on the national broadcaster said that the matter had been resolved and that all workers had returned to work.

When contacted for comment, Matengu expressed his dismay and requested an urgent meeting with Helmsman management.

That meeting lasted for over three hours.



Another termination?

During the meeting, Helmsman's human resources manager Nancy Chibala said she had requested the subcontractors to increase the wages.

“After I picked up that the subcontractors were paying their labourers N$60 per day, I called for a meeting at which we gave them two days to think about it,” she said.

Should the subcontractors not increase the wages, their contract will be terminated as well, she said.

Namibian Sun further uncovered that Helmsman directly employs 22 workers who earn N$100 per day, while those employed by the subcontractors earning N$60 per day.

Attempts to get comment from Wu proved futile, while on Monday she denied that anyone at the project earns N$60 per day.

Meanwhile, despite Helmsman terminating Northern Land's contract, the companies are still in business at Wu's Galaxy Mall in Rundu.

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