By: Kelvin Chiringa
TransNamib workers’ fears have finally come true after it came to light that the company intends to cut off a total of 340 employees this week.
The news of the retrenchments comes a few days after The Villager carried a story about TransNamib workers expressing fears of being targeted by the management because of various reasons.
In the letters seen by The Villager, the workers told the board of directors that the management had an agenda to fire old employees to reduce the wage bill.
TransNamib chief executive officer (CEO) Johnny Smith has since written to the public enterprises minister Leone Jooste informing him of the move to retrench 340 workers.
In his letter dated 31 August 2021, Smith said should all 340 employees targeted leave the company as envisaged, the exercise could cost TransNamib N$44 042 088.37 to execute but would save the company a minimum of approximately N$25 million per annum on the costs of employment which currently stands at 71% of incoming revenue.
Smith also has notified Jooste that he intends to get rid of 154 employees who are nearing retirement age.
This includes an additional 186 employees who are currently in what has now become TransNamib’s non-core business units.
Currently, the state-owned rail company has a total labour force of 1 309 workers.
“Most of these employees are currently being carried by the company in redundant capacities and can be considered excess to the requirements (of) the core business which is Train Operations, Properties and Engineering together with supporting services,” Smith said.
He added that all avenues have been explored but the company cannot continue to carry the said employees or retrain them as there are simply no funds for such initiatives.
In addition, he said, the company can actually only afford about 850 employees according to the revenue currently coming into the company.
Smith has also said that TransNamib has tried to redeploy a number of employees within the newly approved core business but owing to the recent Corona (virus) pandemic, has opted against continuing with this exercise.
He said TransNamib has lost too much revenue due to the serious decline in cargo since March 2020 to date.
Jooste on Sunday said, “These are operational matters that we don’t interfere with. But to consult the CEO and/or Chair.”
Smith and team’s plan, so far, is to fund the process through a gradual release of funds through TransNamib’s payroll, since they do not have the money to fund the retrenchment.
He has also tried to win the confidence of Jooste by telling him that they will follow all required steps as per Section 34 of the Labour Act 11 of 2007.
Meanwhile, in previous correspondences between workers and the board, Smith has been accused of creating fear among employees.
He stands accused of labelling old employees as being negative, targeting the outspoken employees for telling the truth, favouring coloureds, whites and foreigners, and surrounding himself with a “yes Exco team”.
This inner circle is said to include Logan Fransman (Former Director of NGCL at NUST), Ryno Badenhorst (Former FP du Toit Transport Commercial Manager), Webster Gonzo and Nicky Mbambai.
However, sources from within have confided with The Villager that this is a manifestation of a power game meant to tar the image of Smith.
The goal, sources have said, is to have Jooste kick out Smith, who is considered to have the answers to the ailing entity’s woes before taking control of the levers of power at the state entity.
Some have also said the old employees who are harbouring the conspiracy to get rid of Smith, “Are lazy and do not want to work”.