24. September 2014

Chinese company workers strike at Namport

ABOUT 80 Namibian workers employed by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) downed tools on Monday, protesting poor working conditions.
CHEC is the contractor for Namport's N$4 billion container terminal that is being built on reclaimed land. Work on the terminal started early this year. About 100 Namibians and 200 Chinese are working on the project.

The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) Walvis Bay branch organiser, Enwich Kazondu, (who said that he was the workers' spokesperson) said yesterday afternoon the union was still engaging CHEC to resolve the issues.

“The workers are still on strike. We are speaking to the employer, and these can be endless meetings,” he told The Namibian. “We will only be able to give clear answers once the union and the company [have] come to an agreement, which will hopefully be soon.”

The workers claim that they are not being granted permanent appointments, and that they must reapply for their jobs on a month to month basis.

They also claim that the company deducts income tax from their salaries although they do not have tax numbers. They also allegedly do not have social security, or provision for food and travel allowances, while their Chinese colleagues allegedly enjoy company transport and free daily meals.

Namport's corporate communications manager Liz Sibindi told The Namibian yesterday that Namport was aware of the strike and that it was an “unfortunate development”, which impacts on the project's timelines in terms of progress, but that the actual impact was unknown.

“At this stage, Namport has no opinion since the strike only started yesterday. We are still investigating why it occurred in the first place. The strike is illegal and there was absolutely no prior notice given,” she said.

Sibindi said that since Namport is not the employer, CHEC will follow procedures “to deal with an illegal strike”.

CHEC representative Haoran Liu said he would respond to email queries but had not done so by the time of going to print. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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