A union of WORKERS has accused a charcoal production company, located in Witvlei near Gobabis, of exploiting its employees.
Reginald Kock, the Public Servants Union of Namibia (PSUN) representative for the region, said yesterday the union became aware of the problem after workers told them about some problems in Namchar earlier this month.
Kock said when they joined the company they were shocked to see Namibian workers being treated like lower class citizens.
“We asked the workers if they had tried to engage the Department of Labour, Industrial Relations and Job Creation so that the labor commissioner could come and look into their situation.
“We were told that the workers filed a complaint at Gobabis, and officials from the Ministry of Labor came and spoke to the boss,” Kock said.
He said officials had a closed meeting without the workers present.
“Laws are not implemented, regulated and enforced by the ministry,” he said.
Namchar managing director Francios Wiese said yesterday that all the allegations were false and that he had hired his lawyer.
“I don’t want to comment on that. It’s absolutely ridiculous. These photos were taken by someone who works in the packaging section. Those employees in the photos rubbed themselves with charcoal so that everything looks bad,” Wiese said.
Kock claimed that it is not Namchar, but all the charcoal producing companies in Namibia that are exploiting the workers.
“The workers use simple masks which cost less than 10 Namibian dollars in the shops, and they use them for two months. You cannot use a simple surgical mask in an industry like this where you have fumes which will have a impact on your health,” he said.
Kock said that under labor law, workers must drink milk regularly to protect their lungs.
“For a few months now, the workers haven’t received this milk. And they ask for it, but the owner refuses to give them milk,” he said.
He added that they discovered a pregnant worker who was not placed on light duty.
“It’s an indication that someone is raping an employee because of her condition. She’s not guaranteed maternity leave. The boss just wants production to continue,” Kock said.
He said they wrote a letter to the workers’ boss on Monday requesting a meeting with him, but he did not respond.
Kock said the union plans to visit the company next week to meet Namchar’s owner.
“We will make sure everything is in place and in line with workers’ rights. The basic salary ranges from N$300 to N$1,000. A forklift driver gets N$1,000 a month,” he said. .
He said the union had received reports that employees appearing in some photos had been fired.
“We will urge the Ministry of Industrialization and Commerce to revoke its license, as well as the Ministry of Labour. At the moment the workers say they do not want to make comments in the media because they are afraid of dismissed,” Kock said. .