The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation says the suspension of 200 workers at B2Gold came as a result of insubordination for refusing to carry out lawful instruction from their employer.
Maria Hedimbi, the ministry spokesperson’s remarks follow a lengthy meeting held by Minister Utoni Nujoma with B2Gold management and Mineworkers Union of Namibia, in an effort to find an amicable solution amid a soaring relationship between the union and B2Gold as a result of the suspension last week. The bone of contention was mainly on the interpretation of the Continuous Operation permit, which had expired, a basis on which employees refused to work after five while the company demanded otherwise.
‘’It remains the priority of the Ministry for employers and employees to solve their labour issues amicably and thus the Minister called the meeting in order to engage the two parties and explore possibilities of resolving this issue collectively. The Minister had lengthy discussions with the parties today. The parties agreed that they will continue with the discussion at a bilateral level starting from tomorrow 12 October 2022,” said Hedimbi. “It should however be noted that the Continuous Operations status granted to B2Gold by the Minister is not the cause of suspension. The suspension came as a result of workers who refused to carry out lawful instruction by their employer,” she added.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Ministry had blamed both the union and B2Gold for the unfolding event, saying they all misinterpreted the provision of the Labour Act in relation to the Continuous Operation.However, the Ministry clarified that, “although employers have a right to operate on a 24/7 basis without the Minister’s authorization, the Labour Act, 2007 provides several benefits to an employer enterprise that is declared a “continuous operation” pursuant to Section 15 of the Labour Act. The benefits to the employer are that it may operate without meal intervals and can work on Sundays and public holidays without the approval of the Executive Director, as is required in other cases. Each continuous shift may not exceed 8 hours.”
This was after the continuous operation permit expired in May 2021, since then there has been a back and forth in the application of a new one, as there was some non-adherence issues in the application. However, on the 3 of October the ministry granted the Continuous Operation backdating it to June 21. “It is the normal practice for the Minister to grant an effective date for Continuous Operation that follows immediately after the expiration of an earlier grant, provided that the application was received before the expiry date. This is what happened in the case of B2 Gold.The grant of the Continuous Operation status with retrospective effect was done in accordance with the Labour Act, 2007 and there is no basis for the Minister to alter his decision. It should be noted that the granting of Continuous Operation status did not change the employment conditions or remuneration of the employees.”