Marble workers petition against legal officer
22 October 2020 | Labour
Joseph Garoeb; Union leader; “We are imploring government to send inspectors to come and see these employees’ working conditions.”
Employees of BC Stone Products Namibia handed over a petition to their management, highlighting grievances pertaining to the company’s legal officer on Wednesday.
The Chinese owned marble processing company operates in Walvis Bay and Karibib.
According to shop steward chairman Ndunda Benhard, they feel threatened by the presence and the actions of Chris Theron. “Three of our colleagues have been unfairly dismissed because of him. We have another colleague whose disciplinary hearing is ongoing and we do not know what will happen to him,” Benhard alleged.
According to him, they engaged the company on several occasions regarding Theron’s behaviour, to no avail.
“We also engaged the former Erongo governor when we invited him to attend a disciplinary hearing as an observer when one of our colleagues was unfairly dismissed. Yet, the legal officer was not shaken by this move.”
The employees accuse Theron of calling them “empty black rolling tyres”.
“He has a tendency to tell us that we like to be spoon-fed. He told the shop stewards that he is fed up and tired of their nonsense and took a decision to ruin our wage negotiations. He is aggressive towards the shop stewards, and does not act with impartiality and integrity when conducting disciplinary hearings. His emotions always get the better of him.”
The employees believe that Theron is not fit to be a legal officer.
Benhard stated that they want their employers to treat the petition as a matter of urgency.
“We demand that Theron stop dealing with issues that have to do with the employees of BC Stone Products or to deal with anything that may influence decisions or any policies pertaining to the workers. We are giving the company 72 hours to address this issue. Failure to do so will result in unrest.”
In a letter to the management of BC Stone dated 17 August by Joseph Garoeb, deputy secretary general of the Mining, Metal, Maritime and Construction (MMMC) union, workers are demanding the removal of Theron “because he is not fit to do his job”.
“Since he joined the company, many things have been going in the wrong direction. Issues pertaining to retrenchment and dismissals as well as the relationship between the employer, the union and the workers, have become strained.”
In a letter written in response to the union, dated 20 August, human resource manager of BC Stone Lovina Plato stated that their concerns regarding Chris Theron have been noted.
“Procedures require that should employees have grievances with co-workers, whether they are management or not, they are free to raise their concerns through the grievance procedure.”
Plato said the union should note that to demand that the company remove any person without a valid and fair reason or without a disciplinary case where the employee was dismissed, is unlawful and the company will not adhere to such demands.
The workers also petitioned for better working conditions in 2018, but according to Garoeb, none of these grievances have been resolved.
“It is not safe to work here. There are no safety mechanisms in place nor do the employees have medical aid in case they injure themselves on the job. But because these workers need to put bread on the table, they are here.”
Garoeb and his colleagues have implored government to send inspectors to come and witness the employees’ working conditions.
“We have tried to engage high ranking officials to intervene in this matter, but to no avail. I am really hoping that our cries will be heard. We are being discriminated against, treated unfairly, yet we make up the foundation of the economy. We should be respected and treated fairly.”
Plato stated that the company will issue a written response to the petition delivered on Wednesday.