149 workers on carpet at Meatco’s Windhoek plant

149 workers on carpet at Meatco’s Windhoek plant

THE disciplinary hearings of close to 150 workers at the Meat Corporation of Namibia’s Windhoek plant started in the capital yesterday.

They are accused of staging an illegal strike two weeks ago and of intimidating non-striking colleagues in an effort to persuade them to down tools and join the work stoppage, Meatco’s Manager: Corporate Communications, Uschi Ramakhutla, told The Namibian yesterday. She said 119 workers from the plant’s slaughtering floors who are accused of staging an illegal strike, as well as other employees who are claimed to have involved themselves in the strike, face disciplinary action.In all, 149 employees are charged at the disciplinary hearings, she said.They are divided into two groups for the disciplinary hearings, which are taking place before a panel of independent human resources specialists, Ramakhutla said.The 149 employees are accused of embarking on an illegal strike on April 19, or having involved themselves in the strike action afterwards.The strike took place a day after two fellow employees at Meatco’s Windhoek plant had been involved in a physical altercation that prompted the company’s management to suspend one of them pending disciplinary proceedings against him.By the afternoon of April 18, however, the company’s management was informed that the two workers had resolved their differences and exchanged apologies and forgiveness, and that the company was expected to follow suit and drop the planned disciplinary proceedings against the one worker.The company refused, and on April 19, 119 employees working at the plant’s sheep and cattle slaughter floors went on strike in support of their suspended colleague.This brought slaughtering activities at the plant to an abrupt standstill.Slaughtering only restarted on Tuesday last week.After one of the trade unions representing some of the about 430 workers employed at the plant, the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), had informed Meatco by letter that it had advised the workers that their strike was not legal, the striking workers tried to return to work again on April 20.However, with the management apparently set on laying down strict discipline against the strikers, they were turned away and forbidden from entering Meatco premises through an order obtained from the High Court on an urgent basis.The company formally informed the strikers on Monday last week that they were suspended pending disciplinary action.Over the first day of the strike and the following day, when no slaughtering took place at the plant, Meatco lost income of just over N$900 000, according to Ramakhutla.The total cost of the strike to the company cannot be calculated yet, as the plant has still not returned to operating at full capacity, she said.The plant has a capacity to slaughter 430 head of cattle and 1 400 sheep a day.Yesterday, 482 sheep and no cattle were slaughtered, while 265 head of cattle are supposed to be slaughtered today, Ramakhutla said.Slaughtering resumed on Tuesday last week after three days of inactivity.In the first two days of resumed work, 476 head of cattle were slaughtered, Ramakhutla indicated on Friday last week.She added that no cattle were slaughtered on the last two days of last week, when a total of 967 sheep were slaughtered at the plant.She said Meatco employees working in other sections of the plant had been redeployed to the slaughtering floors to fill places left vacant by the suspended employees.Meatco has also employed 55 temporary workers through a labour-hire company, African Personnel Services, Ramakhutla said.These workers have been positioned in “non-critical areas” of the plant where they are performing tasks like cleaning floors, she said.According to Ramakhutla, Meatco expects to be informed of the outcome of the disciplinary hearings today.The company wants to get the Windhoek plant returned to operating at full capacity from Monday, she said.She said 119 workers from the plant’s slaughtering floors who are accused of staging an illegal strike, as well as other employees who are claimed to have involved themselves in the strike, face disciplinary action.In all, 149 employees are charged at the disciplinary hearings, she said.They are divided into two groups for the disciplinary hearings, which are taking place before a panel of independent human resources specialists, Ramakhutla said.The 149 employees are accused of embarking on an illegal strike on April 19, or having involved themselves in the strike action afterwards.The strike took place a day after two fellow employees at Meatco’s Windhoek plant had been involved in a physical altercation that prompted the company’s management to suspend one of them pending disciplinary proceedings against him. By the afternoon of April 18, however, the company’s management was informed that the two workers had resolved their differences and exchanged apologies and forgiveness, and that the company was expected to follow suit and drop the planned disciplinary proceedings against the one worker.The company refused, and on April 19, 119 employees working at the plant’s sheep and cattle slaughter floors went on strike in support of their suspended colleague.This brought slaughtering activities at the plant to an abrupt standstill.Slaughtering only restarted on Tuesday last week.After one of the trade unions representing some of the about 430 workers employed at the plant, the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), had informed Meatco by letter that it had advised the workers that their strike was not legal, the striking workers tried to return to work again on April 20.However, with the management apparently set on laying down strict discipline against the strikers, they were turned away and forbidden from entering Meatco premises through an order obtained from the High Court on an urgent basis.The company formally informed the strikers on Monday last week that they were suspended pending disciplinary action.Over the first day of the strike and the following day, when no slaughtering took place at the plant, Meatco lost income of just over N$900 000, according to Ramakhutla.The total cost of the strike to the company cannot be calculated yet, as the plant has still not returned to operating at full capacity, she said.The plant has a capacity to slaughter 430 head of cattle and 1 400 sheep a day.Yesterday, 482 sheep and no cattle were slaughtered, while 265 head of cattle are supposed to be slaughtered today, Ramakhutla said.Slaughtering resumed on Tuesday last week after three days of inactivity.In the first two days of resumed work, 476 head of cattle were slaughtered, Ramakhutla indicated on Friday last week.She added that no cattle were slaughtered on the last two days of last week, when a total of 967 sheep were slaughtered at the plant.She said Meatco employees working in other sections of the plant had been redeployed to the slaughtering floors to fill places left vacant by the suspended employees.Meatco has also employed 55 temporary workers through a labour-hire company, African Personnel Services, Ramakhutla said.These workers have been positioned in “non-critical areas” of the plant where they are performing tasks like cleaning floors, she said.According to Ramakhutla, Meatco expects to be informed of the outcome of the disciplinary hearings today.The company wants to get the Windhoek plant returned to operating at full capacity from Monday, she said.

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