MUN furious over mass retrenchment plans

By Jade McClune

ALL indications are that despite government directives that companies not lay off their workers during the lockdown period, the owners of Namib Lead and Zinc plan to retrench 129 miners in response to the economic downturn and challenging market conditions.

But the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) is not taking it lying down.

George Ampweya, the western regional organiser of union said they were “dismayed at the manner in which the managing director of Namib Lead and Zinc (Pty) Ltd, Mr Martin Tjipita intends to handle the dismissal of 129 of his employees.”

In a statement on Monday he said despite the union’s call to set aside the dismissals until the lifting of the current state of emergency regulations, the management insists on completing the retrenchment process as soon as possible, “despite the directives from the Ministry of Labour, as published on 20 April 2020, which he (Tjipita) referred to as ‘Just a draft document’ that does not bind the company in any way, further citing their intention to challenge these directives.”

The mine is 90% owned by North River Resources Plc, a firm incorporated in England and Wales, that is focused on mineral exploration and mining in Namibia. On the company website, it says “The mining license was obtained in 2017 and that construction started in 2018. The plant was completed in March 2019 and first concentrate only produced in May 2019.

“In our latest communication to management, amongst others, the MUN reiterated the importance of postponing the entire process until after the lockdown regulations have been lifted … This to our surprise was again rejected by the company MD,” who insisted on continuing the retrenchment process.

The MUN said the firm was not acting in good faith and seemingly “would rather get rid of the employees as soon as possible. The excessive speed at which management want this process to be completed at the expense of due diligence is unwarranted and equally suspicious.

The MD was not available for an interview when contacted yesterday, but said he would call back soon.

The union meanwhile insists “that the dismissals be in compliance with the directives published by the Ministry of Labour on 20 April 2020, alternatively no dismissals should take place, period.”