By: Sheila Perestrelo
President of the National Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) Reginald Kock says that some former Air Namibia have turned to drugs and alcohol since losing their jobs at the national airliner which was officially folded last year following decades of debt.
His comments come as member of parliament, Jan Van Wyk, this week, gave notice that he would ask finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi a number of questions regarding government’s responsibility to the former employees, including the pending severance packages that are yet to be received by former Air Namibia employees. He also said the finance minister has refused to meet with the former employees.
“The well-being of former employees has been severely deteriorating since the liquidation of Air Namibia. Former employees are dealing with extreme stress which has led many to turn to harmful practices such as alcohol and drug abuse,” he told The Villager.
Kock stated that the former employees feel disappointed with the lack of action taken by the government.
“We attribute that situation with regards to where we find ourselves, to the government. They are not ensuring that we get our severance pay and ensuring that we are looked after as promised.”
Kock, further stated that the government has kept very little communication with former employees, providing little to no information on the matter or when former employees will be receiving their severance packages.
When 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.
Upon the liquidation of Air Namibia, Kock said former employees were promptly informed of the company’s decision and that no negotiation between the ministry and the former employees took place.
“The meeting was clear and forward. We are going to close the airline as from tomorrow, stop all operations.” Kock said this was very wrong of government, and that it did not follow the right legal procedures to classify former employees as retrenched employees, which has left them still vulnerable to high taxation when they eventually do receive their severance packages.
Kock stated that government has done its part in paying out of the ex gratia payments promised to Air Namibia employees, however, he stressed that these payments were subject to taxation. The unionist further stated that this is not in accordance with due procedures as the payments to the ex-employees should be exempt from taxation.
On Tuesday, Van Wyk questioned the handling of these unresolved issues still faced by former Air Namibia employees.
Van Wyk asked why, when it was decided to liquidate Air Namibia, were the former employees so poorly informed on the matter.
“When it was decided to liquidate Air Namibia, legal opinions were sought by government as the main shareholder. Why were the employees not informed about their rights and that they would not receive their severance packages immediately in terms of relevant legislation?” asked Van Wyk.
Kock expressed that he does not recognise any future changes with the role the government plays in the betterment of the current situations faced by the former employees and the “disinterest” to help with the unemployment many of these specialised workers now face due to the liquidation of the airline.