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Environment Not Conducive for Negotiations: Cheetah Cement

Staff Writer

The Cheetah Cement factory management at Otjiwarongo will likely not settle for a proposal to go back to the negotiation table just yet as the Mine Workers Union (MUN) now needs to answer to accusations of breaking some of the striking rules in the High Court.

This has been expressed by the company’s consulting spokesperson, Taby Moyo, as the MUN is now willing to renegotiate some of its stringent demands in order to bring the strike to its end.

Nearly 200 workers at the Chinese-owned cement factory downed their tools last month after accusing the company of failing to negotiate in good faith at the back of demands for a “reasonable” salary increment, housing allowance, medical aid and pension perks.

“They have sent correspondence to that effect, but obviously, there are other things that the company is trying to address because, as you are aware, the strike rules that we have signed between the company and the union have not been adhered to.”

“The striking workers have actually prevented the company from operating, and as we speak now, there is no productivity, and the contractors of the company are being prevented by the striking workers from coming into the premises. So, that is the issue that management is trying to address at the moment. The environment is not conducive for any negotiation because the striking workers have disregarded the striking rules,” Moyo said.

In the meantime, Naftal Nghipitwako, said they got a call from the labour commissioner earlier on Monday to say a meeting between the union and the employer on the 16th of August.

“So, currently, what is going on is that we have given a proposal, and they have said that they are willing to meet us on the 15th, 16th, and 17th. We are looking forward to the employer being willing to buy into it. The ministry itself does not care about the welfare of the workers in this country. The minister himself does not care because you will find that we get into a meeting, and the minister is walking out while we are addressing issues that are affecting the workers. That shows that the minister does not care,” he said.

He said they have not changed the proposals very much besides a few adjustments, while negotiations will hinge on medical aid, housing allowance and salary increments.

“The employer does not want to get in detail, especially when it comes to medical aid,” he said.

In the meantime, labour research expert, Herbert Jauch, said MuN’s overtures could be symptomatic of a strike that is taking its toll on the workers.

Beyond the strike, Cheetah Cement also has plans to cut down about 115 jobs, in what is described as a possible cleansing exercise to rid the company’s rebellious elements.

“This is very much how it looks like, and we have had such cases before. Sometimes companies provoke a strike, they do not negotiate in good faith, and they steer the negotiation towards a deadlock, and use the strike as an excuse to restructure. So if 200 workers are on strike, 115 will be retrenched, then there is, of course, a co-relation,” he said.




Staff Writer

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