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Tour guides unhappy over working conditions

Mon, 30 May 2016 14:49
by Rodney Pienaar

Tour guides employed by the National Heritage Council of Namibia (NHCN) at the Versteende Woud (Petrified Forest) site in Twyfelfontein and Brandberg Heritage site in Erongo region have expressed dissatisfaction with their living conditions.
According to tour guides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, an amount of N$1 000 is deducted from their salaries for accommodation and electricity, although they still have to share the living quarters, made up of a small room, with up to four 4 people.
The guides claim to often go for three days without water at their living quarters because of delays with the water tank trucks, which are supposed to transport water to the sites.
They have also appealed to NHCN to grant them bush allowances similar to what is offered employees of privately owned tour guide companies, but their requests have apparently gone unanswered.
Their complaints go as far as having to wear the same the old uniforms for about four years without replacement.
The guides said they have reached out to the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture (MoE), Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, cornering the issues early this year, but the efforts seem to have been futile.
Speaking to The Villager, Ester Goagoses, the Chairperson of the board of directors of the NHCN, confirm that Council is aware of the complaints and that the ministry is still looking at possible ways to solve the accommodation issue.
“We have sat with the minister regarding complaints raised by the tour guides. There are plans to build extra rooms for guides at the Brandberg heritage site as well as the Petrified Forest heritage site. Those rooms at the sites are meant for workers only, but still guides also bring their families which makes it more uncomfortable for them. When some workers are off duty the ones on duty are sharing accommodation”, Goagoses said.
She added, “We have not yet looked at the bush allowance issue. Everyone is not to get bush allowances. There are specific regulations and registration processes for allowances such as the bush allowance. It was discussed with the minister and it will still be looked into.”
According to staff workers at the Twyfelfontein, some workers have been now resorted to living houses they have built themselves, some from corrugated iron sheets while they are still being supplied with water from the Twyvelfontein site. The Twyfelfontein heritage site has close to 27 staff members including guides, The Villager has learned.
Director of the NHCN, Solomon April, also confirmed that his office is aware of the complaints made regarding accommodation.
“These guides knew when they were appointed that there was a challenge with the accommodation, especially the ones from the Petrified Forest. There are plans and the housing issue will be attended to. The Twyfelfontein accommodation issue has been known since the beginning and they have electricity at their location too’’, April said
He added that he will visit Brandberg this month to handover a site to a contractor where housing for the employees of that particular site will be build.