By: Kelvin Chiringa
Frustrated ex-Air Namibia employees met with deputy finance minister Maureen Hinda-Mbuende, pleading with her to pressure the liquidators (Bruni & McLaren) to pay out their severance packages worth N$105 million.
The employees were led by the opposition shadow minister for works, Jan van Wyk and Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) lawmaker Celeste Becker.
Three ex-Air Namibia employees, who were representing 500 affected colleagues, took the deputy minister through their misery for an hour before she committed to taking up their issue for a possible way out.
One of the major grievances is that financial people currently working at Air Namibia alongside the liquidators are being paid salaries, potentially depleting money currently in the liquidation account.
The workers said they requested the liquidators to pay them at least half of what they are owed from the money in the kitty, but this was denied.
“If you are really serious about finalising this issue… because the longer the people are in the office, they are secured for a job. So, they can delay the process for as long as possible. They get the total cost to the company. They actually haven’t lost their work like the rest of us that have been sitting without an amount for 14 months.
“So, the longer they sit there and get paid, it depletes the account, the (liquidation) is not being finalised. We just hear, hey, what’s wrong with you guys? You already got ex-gratia; can’t you wait? You can wait for your money! In the meantime, people are dying. People are getting out of school; people are losing their houses, their cars and stuff like that. It makes me feel like I am not a Namibian,” they said.
So far, they have had only one meeting with the liquidators.
“I don’t deserve this because I worked 22 years of my life. I wasted 22 years of my life with that company. All I want now and the rest of us want is we want to cut off the history and our relationship like it says in the Labour Act, your last day of employment it’s called, on the letter it says involuntary termination of service,” Hinda was told.
They also said that their pension money, as well as their ex-gratia, were all fully taxed, and they do not know whether the same will happen if they are to get their severance.
“We haven’t received any tax certificates with regards to that, and we need to file with your ministry, and nobody can assist us in getting those tax certificates,” they also said.
It’s been 14 months now without their severance package.
They said so far, between 10 to 15 ex-Air Namibia employees have managed to get jobs elsewhere while the rest continue to wallow in the cold.
They also said that they have lost seven of their colleagues to death and that Hinda was their last hope in their pursuit for their package.
The workers failed at labour because the employer is no longer in existence, as the Labour Act provides an employer versus an employee.
In the meantime, Hinda said her ministry would need time to go through their case and has asked for two weeks.
“We are all Namibians. I know when things get tough, one questions your own position, but we all deserve equal treatment. We will look into this matter. Obviously, you would also know that when it is under liquidation there are also legal limitations,” she said.