|15. June 2016
Chinese company accused of sidestepping labour laws
Namibian Manfred Naobeb has accused his Chinese employer Zhong Mei Engineering Group, which is subcontracted by the Roads Contractor Company for the Henties Bay-Uis-Khorixas-Kamanjab road, of sidestepping Namibian labour laws as a means to cut costs. This, he claims, has resulted in approximately 50 Namibians on site near Henties Bay being exploited and short-changed by the company.
Naobeb was employed with Zhong Mei Engineering as the human resources manager on a two-year contract.
His employment was, however, recently terminated because his 'performance does not meet the requirements of the company', as per the termination notice The Namibian has seen.
Naobeb claims otherwise, though. “I am actually being fired because I am doing my work, and implementing the law, not just for my sake, but for fellow Namibians, whom I believe are being short-changed and discriminated against.” According to him, many workers are employed as general contract workers, although they are expected to do more specific jobs like bricklaying, welding and driving, for instance.
Zhong Mei Engineering Group's project manager Shu Rong told The Namibian that the matter was between Naobeb and the employer, and if he had problems, he should go to them to work things out.
He, however, maintained that Naobeb's employment was terminated because he did not meet the requirements of the company.
Naobeb said he advised his employer that they need to amend the contracts of workers to match their job descriptions, which then also would necessitate the adjustment of their salaries as per their job descriptions. He claimed the Chinese are deliberately not amending the contracts, thereby avoiding paying more for specific jobs. If the Namibians refuse to do the work, they are allegedly threatened, just like Naobeb was - and then dismissed. “You know how we Namibians are. We are desperate for work, and will do anything to get bread on the table. But there have to be limits. We need to be protected against exploitation, and we cannot allow foreigners to come here and sidestep our laws,” he stressed.
According to him, the Chinese workers stay in luxury units on site near Henties Bay, where the road Swakopmund and Uis on either side of Henties Bay, while local workers have to rent accommodation at Henties Bay.
According to the labour law, workers must get allowances for living away from their abode as well as food and transport allowances, even protective gear (which apparently they do not have). “These are rights, not luxuries,” he stated, adding that he just wanted all workers to receive their dues, especially considering that these people come from elsewhere to work in Erongo. “They need better benefits. At the moment, they just get an hourly wage,” he said, adding that he as HR manager also only received a low salary without benefits.
Now, the company has apparently employed a Chinese HR practitioner in Naobeb's place, whom he fears will suppress the employees' demands by possibly disregarding the laws that Naobeb was trying to implement and maintain.
(The Namibian, Windhoek)