Ward contractors threaten to strike again

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

Close 500 ward cleaners employed by the City of Windhoek who went on strike in February to demand better working conditions and an end to their undefined employment contracts from the municipal council, have threatened to go on strike once more.

The group gave the Windhoek municipality until 15 March to respond to the demands of their previous petition.

According to group spokesperson Mbenda Immanuel, the group will hold a meeting in town on Saturday to determine when exactly they will approach the city’s management structures and also when to carry out another strike in order to have their demands met.

“The management did not respond to our petition. We are still trying to communicate amongst ourselves and we are looking at the way forward. We still need to contact some of the people that might help us regarding our petition. If the city does not respond we also will not stop. We will still hand in another petition, but for now we will definitely strike again as we have already handed in our petition. The strike will happen soon after we hold the meeting this coming weekend. After the meeting we will have an exact date.” said Immanuel.

Furthermore, Immanuel disclosed that the Solid Waste Management Ward Contractors department has sent letters to the strike-related contractors inviting them to a hearing about the illegal strike.

“They are failing to respond to our petition yet they are giving us letters to attend hearings because we didn’t work on the days of strike just so they can have reason to fire us,” he added

The contractors took to the streets last month in order to demand better working conditions. Although the city has dismissed the labor action as illegal, workers further demanded permanent employment because many of them have been working on a contract basis since as early as 1990.

In addition, the workers called on the municipal council to provide them with a pension fund allocation via the Retirement Fund for Local Authorities and Utility Services in Namibia (RFLAUN) as the custodian of all local authorities to host their retirement fund.

Other requests include demands for a housing scheme, written contracts, payment for overtime work on Saturdays, training on hazardous waste as well as a 13th cheque.

The workers also demanded that the city investigate the fact that there are some ghost employees on its payroll.

The scope of services rendered by the ward contractors include sweeping of road surfaces, cleaning of streets, road reserves and open spaces. They also deal with cleaning of stormwater catch pits and culverts, issuing of black bags to all households in informal settlements, collection of all household refuse in the informal settlements as well as emptying all pole refuse and street bins. These employees usually work on six-month renewable contracts.

When called for comment, city spokesperson Harold Akwenye, confirmed that the city has not responded to the petition yet due to the fact that a case was opened with the Labour Commissioner.

“We cannot respond to their petition as of yet, there is a pending case with the Labour Commissioner and we are awaiting on the arbitrator’s response,” he said

Last month Akweenye said the demonstration amounts to abandonment of work and/or being absent from work without permission.

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