By Elvis Muraranganda
THREE key ministers are set to meet today to decide on the fate of employees at the country’s railway utility, TransNamib, which is sharpening knives in a massive rightsizing and retrenchment exercise while acting chief executive officer Hippy Tjivikua cautions against potential labour backlashes.
Public Enterprise Minister Leon Jooste, Works and Transport’s Alpheus !Naruseb and Labour Minister Erkki Nghimtina are expected to carve a way forward in this protracted debate which could leave 1000 jobless and families without a source of income.
This high-level meeting which will also include officials from TransNamib was confirmed by Jooste who indicated that they will need to come up with proposals to be presented to Cabinet.
“There has not been official communication to my office about the latest developments there but we are meeting on Thursday (today) to decide on the way forward. They are expected to make suggestions,” Jooste explained.
In this rightsizing and retrenchment exercise about 1 000 employees are to be relieved off their duties through voluntary retirement exits, a plan initially shelved two years ago but revived months after that.
It is for this reason that Tjivikua has cautioned the TransNamib board to lay the groundwork before employees are sent packing onto the streets.
In a letter dated March 15 2017 also seen by Confidente, Tjivikua stressed that although the parastatal urgently needs the restructuring, it does not have N$200 million at this stage to pay out employees who are slated to face the axe.
According to the executive, a lot of groundwork has to be done before the employees are dismissed in the spirit of fair labour practices and also in order to salvage the image of the institution from a media onslaught.
The serious-toned letter was addressed to Paul Smit, who is the current chairperson of the beleaguered institution which is not new to labour unrest, power tussles and constant bailouts from taxpayers’ coffers.
“…Before this humungous exercise is carried out, official principal approval (should) be sought by the Board from Cabinet, relevant ministries, i.e. Works and Transport, Public Enterprise, Labour and Social Welfare,” it read.
In principle, the letter added, President Hage Geingob, Vice President Nickey Iyambo and Prime Minister Saara Kuukongelwa should be informed and give consent before the envisaged retrenchment and resizing.
“TransNamib is currently not in a position to afford this huge exercise independently on its own, with estimated cost to be around N$200 million.”
“The alternative is first to secure funding from the shareholder or other parties before this exercise is executed.”
“Equally, we are not in a sound financial position to borrow funding from commercial banks for this purpose without the express support of the shareholder.”
According to the letter, the last option is for the parastatal to sell its non-core properties and use the money for rightsizing and retrenchments however, 2001 Cabinet resolutions prohibits parastatals from selling, giving and alienating Government properties.
The board was advised to approach Cabinet to rescind this decision before the sale process commences.
Tjivikua continued: “(TransNamib) EXCO is further informed that cabinet has put on hold retrenchments at parastatals. EXCO is advising the board to verify this and find a way how this can be rectified.”
Smit and his board were cautioned to mitigate any potential issue that may arise such as unfair labour dismissals, unilateral change of employees’ condition of employment or any form of unfair practice not permissible under labour laws.
It is further noted that failure to do will result in serious labour unrest, breakdown of relationship with the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau) as well as negative media publicity.
Another issue raised from the letter, is the appointment of turnaround strategy consultant Johan Piek at a cost of N$7,5 million, which the acting TransNamib boss feels is bleeding the already struggling company.
“Based on my interaction to d a t e with Piek and in the absence of me having any knowledge and access to his profile, I wish to state categorically clear that Piek does not carry the right qualifications, experience and understanding of this exercise at hand.”
Also, Piek stands accused of not having an understanding of the Namibian corporate culture and does not appreciate the local political atmosphere.
Tjivikua, Smit and Piek could not be reached for comments while !Naruseb confirmed the brewing storm at TransNamib but indicated that he is yet to meet with the concerned parties.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015