Husab denies labour concerns

SWAKOPMUND

06 August 2018 | Labour

Catherine Sasman

Swakopmund Uranium, which operates the Husab uranium mine outside the coastal town, has denied allegations of labour unrest allegedly caused by unfair labour practices.

An SMS message published in the media recently claimed there are labour unrests at the mine and that the company bosses have threatened to put the mine on care and maintenance, should the workers not accept its proposed salary increase over a five-year term.

‘Care and maintenance’ is a term used in the mining industry to describe processes and conditions on a closed mine site where there is potential to recommence operation at a later date.

Without going into details, the Erongo regional coordinator of the Mine Workers Union (MUN), George Ampweya, said the mine was proposing a “different version” for salary adjustments, which he said was contrary to the recognition agreement signed between the trade union and the mine.

Vice president of the human resources department of the mine, Percy McCullum, said during June and July the executive committee of the mine had conducted “extensive consultations” with the MUN and employees on a new bonus scheme.

“The bonus scheme will modify the traditional fixed rate of negotiated annual salary increases and short-term bonus schemes (based on unsustainable indices such as annual CPI [consumer price index]) as employees will be in a position to earn more money linked to the performance of the company,” McCullum said.

He said the bonus scheme is viewed as a “first” within the workplace culture of companies in Namibia and that the intended results “will ensure higher levels of productivity and positioning the company to remain strong and vibrant against any external and internal challenges which may impact the viability of the company”.

COMPLAINTS

A group of Namibian employees preferring anonymity claimed unfair labour practices and inconsistencies in remuneration between local and Chinese workers.

They claimed salaries are not competitive and that some employees on the same level, same job title, and the same level of experience are not being paid equally.

Another claim was that there are no understudies where Chinese expatriates train and guide Namibian workers, charging that many of the Chinese workers have “questionable qualifications” but are employed in supervisory capacities.

Yet another claim is that external training and skill development programmes are usually rejected for Namibians while Chinese employees are often sent to South Africa for training and personal development.

McCullum, without dealing separately with individual grievances, denied most claims. He said the company has introduced a competitive salary structure and an official grading for its employees. These salary structures, he added, are benchmarked annually against major companies.

“Swakop Uranium remunerates employees on levels of experience and other factors impacting on the role. Job descriptions are in place for each role, outlining employees’ duties and responsibilities,” McCullum said.

He stressed that the mine embraces a multi-cultural environment.

“The successful interaction and integration of the various cultures has nurtured a unique culture in which employees from both countries learn from each other in the work environment and socially with great agility to breed a high-performance culture of diligence, discipline and dedication,” McCullum said.

He said the mine has put in place a comprehensive training and development structure to provide training for Namibians, particularly previously disadvantaged Namibians, in technical and non-technical fields.

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