July 30, 2007

Garment factory Ramatex closes three units

Environmental concerns over operations at Ramatex have been given as the main reason behind the closure of three units at the Malaysian-owned garment factory in Windhoek. The Namibia Food and Allied Workers' Union (Nafau) held an urgent meeting with Ramatex after The Namibian had reported that the company had planned to take machinery from the units out of the country. After the meeting, Nafau General Secretary Kiros Sackarias said the company had assured the union that they were not planning to shut up shop and withdraw from Namibia. According to Sackarias, about 240 workers had been affected by the closure of the three departments, adding that these workers were all moved to the sewing department in the company's Flamingo Garments factory. A sudden departure by Ramatex has been a long-standing fear among workers, most recently fuelled in May 2006 by the company's failed proposal to Government to buy out the Windhoek factory. "They assured us that there would be no loss of jobs," Sackarias told The Namibian about the latest developments. He added that the company attributed the recent closure of its spinning, knitting and dyeing factories to environmental concerns from the City of Windhoek.
Ramatex uses large evaporation ponds to store wastewater, but according to a 2004 report by an independent engineering company, not enough water was evaporating from these. This apparently led to the ponds overflowing on several occasions, mixing with water from streams that run towards the Goreangab Dam. Katoma has assured residents that the City of Windhoek does not extract drinking water from this area at all. In September 2006, City of Windhoek Communications Manager Ndangi Katoma confirmed there had been groundwater pollution in the area surrounding the Ramatex factory.
Neither Ramatex itself, nor the Ministry of Trade and Information, have so far commented on what is happening at the factory, although both confirmed that "there are quite a number of things happening". (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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