Namibian telecoms workers in unlawful strike

Telecom Namibia logo
Telecom Namibia logo

Telecom Namibia employees briefly downed tools on Friday morning (31 August), a move condemned by management as in violation of dispute resolution procedures.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on September 4, 2007 reports:

According to the company, approximately 80 employees unilaterally decided to go on what it described as an illegal industrial action on Friday morning from 08:00 until 12:00. This, the company said, was in violation of its Recognition Agreement with the Namibia Public Workers Union.

The dispute revolves around what Telecom feels was an unlawful work stoppage involving the employer's right to transfer an employee. The company spelt out its position on the work stoppage in a statement released by Corporate Communications and Public Relations Senior Manager, Oiva Angula on Friday.

"The Company's contention is that the issues identified by the union are contrived, as their action was in fact sparked off by an individual union member's misconduct, which the union sought to defend," Telecom said. The company said it was prepared and eager - as has been the case in the past - to continue to engage the union in order to resolve the issue.

The industrial action started in Oshakati, moved to Windhoek and then Gobabis where 12 workers joined the strike. Nampa reports that Telecom employees at Gobabis held a two-hour demonstration in front of the company's offices, during which they read a petition detailing their problems at the company.

They allegedly complained about the poor management and strategic planning style of Managing Director, Frans Ndoroma, and his management team. According to Nampa, the workers accused Ndoroma of employing former Namdeb colleagues such as Nelson Mushariwa, whom they described as a failure as a general manager.

Approached for comment yesterday, Angula said the allegations of poor management, corruption and weak financial performance were all fake concoctions and aimed to mislead. "If asked to, they won't be able to substantiate the allegations of poor leadership and corruption. If they were genuine about the allegations they would have taken them to the Anti-Corruption Commission, so why haven't they?"

According to Angula, the work stoppage resulted from personal support for a female employee at Telecom's I-way Internet division who proved very obstructive at the workstation where the company had posted her.

"It had become unbearable for the company to keep her in that front office position. We therefore agreed with Napwu to set September 12 as the date for negotiations to resolve the situation." In the meantime, the company reassigned the employee to a new back office position, but she refused to move into her new office.

As a last resort Angula said, the company decided to put the employee on paid leave until the September 12 meeting. "We did this in good faith, but the union obviously misinterpreted it as a show of strength by Telecom so it decided to flex some muscle of its own."

He refuted other allegations made by workers, such as that Telecom employs too many foreigners and is not making profits. He accused some of the placards brandished by demonstrators of having "racist connotations", adding there are only two non-Namibians in Telecom's top management structure.

Telecom had further made profits in all the years since the Government commercialised the entity. "Recent growth might have been sluggish, but overall total revenue remains healthy. Unspectacular growth figures can be ascribed to the heavy investment the company is making into improving its network infrastructure."

He further pointed out that Ndoroma does not participate in interview panels for employees at Mushariwa's level. Napwu, however, does so and if the union wants someone to blame it should perhaps look at itself, he said.

Ndoroma, he alleged, only participates in interview panels where employees at general manager's level are appointed. Telecom said Ndoroma, received the petition and advised the demonstrators that their action was unlawful.