Namibia Dairies to retrench 25 workers this month

Martin Endjala

ONE of Ohlthaver& List (O&L) group subsidiaries, Namibia Dairies, is reportedly laying-off some of its employees due to financial instability caused by covid-19 pandemic come January 31.

About 25 employees are currently being retrenched at the AVIS plant and Prosperita whilst other branches are to follow suit.
As many companies battle to sustain themselves during this tough times of Covid-19, Namibia Dairies was not spared, as the company battles financial constraints.

According to Namibia Dairies Avis Manufacturing Plant Shop Steward, Cossy Tjihundju, several employees are serving a one month notice of retrenchment slated for the 31st January.
Last October saw both the Rundu and Katima Mulilo depots closing and this month Otjiwarongo and Swakopmund are expected to follow suit with many employees’ livelihoods still hanging in a balance.

O&L Group Corporate Relations Manager, Roux-Che-Locke, confirms that there are a number of employees that are going to be retrenched, about 168, and that all levels of the bargaining groups are included in this number. She also confirms that the four depots will be closing as well. The Prosperita Head Office and the depot store will be both relocated to the AVIS manufacturing plant.
Tjihundju says the laying-off of employees is starting from employees who worked for two to five years. He hopes for the company’s update on its financial standings to better understand the situation and find amicable solutions, rather than making employees feel threatened and forced to go on early retirement as no one wants to be retrenched.

“We love the company as a whole, but [with] the current new leadership things are just getting worse, and we are only working because of the dollar to sustain our relatives, it is no longer enjoyable as it was in the former leadership,” he laments.

Employees were notified last month that the company will be laying-off some of its staff workers. This came about after the company exhausted all its efforts in negotiating with employees representatives, and brought about a delay in the payment of the from 2020 to 2021. Furthermore, on the August 4th , 2021, wage negotiations were held to discuss employees increment but to their surprise the company asked the employees’ representatives to agree on a 20 percent salary reduction (under Section12 of the Labour Act) to help manage the company’s financial crisis and to sustain the company and preserve employees jobs for three months.

Wage negotiations were to be revisited at later stage, of which employee representatives agreed after consulting the employees. In four days after the meeting the salary reduction of 20 percent was implemented and deducted on the 25th of each month for the agreed three months. “However, despite all these efforts, we reached our targets in both months of October and November last year, particularly in the Orange nectar juice, and the company has been operating during Covid-19 pandemic period, acquiring even the special essential operating permits. We therefore fail to understand their reasoning and to make matters worse, the company operated on a 24/7 hour basis,” says a very adamant Tjihundju.

After several consultations, the parties met again last September and agreed to a three percent increment after the initial failed proposal of eight percent. This was only done after the representative learned of the three percent increment given to those in higher positions. The five percent remaining included N$300 housing allowance, N$300 overnight allowance and bonus, of which negotiations are still on going up to this year.

Tjihundju warns that if things do not change, particularly the wage increment, a strike is looking to be eminent, and would wish to avoid it at all cost. The Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau)’s Secretory General, Jacob Penda, in a telephone interview, confirmed that they are aware of what is transpiring at Namibia Dairies but could not give more insight as they are still in dialogue with the company and further update will be made known to the public upon dialogue satisfactory outcomes. Roux-Che-Lock states with conviction that, “they are confident that, they are moving in the right direction, to right size Namibia Dairies and to set it up for success.”

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