…says government can’t cater for payments
By: Sheila Perestrelo
Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi says that the salaries offered by the government to the ex-employees of Air Namibia after the state entity collapsed are not compulsory as a token of goodwill.
When the government announced that Air Namibia would be liquidated, it said that the employees would receive a 12-month salary severance package for the employees of the now defunct national flag-carrier.
Shiimi was responding to a member of parliament, Jan Van Wyk, who last week gave notice that he would ask finance minister Shiimi several questions regarding the government’s responsibility to the former employees, including the pending severance packages that are yet to be received by former Air Namibia employees.
In response, Shiimi said that the initial payment made to ex-employees was a form of appreciation to the employees, considering the impact the liquidation had on the lives of the former Air Namibia employees.
“The payment given to the former Air Namibia employees was merely an act of goodwill and that this was done as an extraordinary act by the government as a shareholder,” said Shiimi.
Shiimi further stated that the government has no control over when employees will receive their severance packages, adding that this will only be determined after the finalisation of Air Namibia’s liquidation.
“Holding the government responsible for the payment of the ex-employees, then the government would be held responsible for all other Namibian citizens who have lost their jobs.”
He added that the government could not continue payment of gratitude until the liquation is finalised because of economic difficulties.
“I will say that if the government could assist, we would have, but unfortunately, due to economic difficulties, it is not fiscally possible to cater for such payments,” Shiimi argues.
He further stated that continuing these severance package payments is impossible.
The former employees are still owed roughly N$105 million in severance packages, which include leave days and pension.
“This action will also be reckless on the side of government. There are a lot of Namibians who have also lost their employment through liquidation or the devastating Covid-19 pandemic,” Shiimi said.
Meanwhile, Namibia Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) president Reginald Kock said the ex-employees feel it is the government’s responsibility to step in and help the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) with finalising the liquidation of Air Namibia.
“As the main shareholder, the government has the responsibility now to be involved in the severance pay and give some comfort to the ex-employees with the indication of how far we are, how we are doing or going about it,” said Kock.
At the back of it all, labour expert Herbert Jauch describes the response by the finance ministry as a ‘tragic ending’ for the ex-employees.
Jauch said that it is highly unlikely that the former Air Namibia employees will get further compensation after the government paid their ex-gratia sum. He added that it is an injustice to the former Air Namibia employees.
“The workers now find themselves in a situation of now struggling for survival with minimal prospects of finding new work and opportunities,” he said.
This was also observed by Kock, who, in an interview with The Villager, said some former Air Namibia have turned to drugs and alcohol since losing their jobs at the national airliner.
Air Namibia was formally liquidated on 26 March 2021, after no opposing papers were filed against a liquidation application brought by the Namibia Airports Company (NAC).
The national airline owed N$714 million to the NAC in outstanding aeronautical and ground handling charges and has been in provisional liquidation since 6 February 2021.
Air Namibia had assets valued at N$1,04 billion and liabilities amounting to nearly N$5,4 billion.