Working without stopping to eat costs Namdia N$1,4m

Uahoroka Kauta

Namibia Desert Diamonds (Namdia) has been ordered to pay a settlement of N$1,4 million to members of its security personnel for subjecting them to alleged slave-like working conditions.

In October 2022, the Office of the Labour Commissioner found that the parastatal acted unlawfully and should pay for the lunch hours worked without compensation.

The order was made in respect of five protection officers who reported the parastatal to the labour commissioner’s office, claiming the company subjected them to working without being allowed to take lunch since 2018.

The five are Wenzel Dreyer, Graddy Haraseb, Joel Angula, Paul Snyders, Charles Rhoman and Tanya Pieterse. Namdia’s chief operations officer, Uahoroka Kauta, confirmed the matter to The Namibian last month.

“Namdia has amicably resolved this internal matter with its staff and [sic] in accordance with our human resource policy is unable to discuss the details externally,” Kauta said.

Joel Angula

Kauta said the move is meant to cultivate a healthy work-life balance for staff.

“Namdia places a high priority on cultivating a healthy work-life balance for its staff, as we recognise and understand the importance of creating an environment that not only fosters professional growth, but also ensures the well-being and satisfaction of our employees in their personal lives,” Kauta said.

The Namibian has seen a legal report by Namdia company secretary and legal adviser Marvel Tjombonde, addressed to the board on 14 November 2022, claiming that the settlement agreement had been reached.

“The draft settlement agreement has been quality assured and has been shared with the protection officers. Financial implications is N$1 453 171 for the meal hour settlement as verified by Deloitte and Touche,” noted the report.

The matter of unpaid meal of hours dates back to January 2019, when former Namdia boss Kennedy Hamutenya wrote to the Namdia board explaining that the issue was brought about by a misunderstanding.

Tanya Pieterse

“Protection officers work six shifts a week and 24 shifts a month. For every shift, a lunch hour is to be taken after five hours of work. Due to a misunderstanding between the protection officers and their management, the lunch hour was, therefore, never taken by the protection officers since their commencement of employment with Namdia,” Hamutenya wrote in a report addressed to the board on 19 January 2019.

He added: “And are, therefore, owed an hour at the normal overtime rate of 1,5 for every lunch not taken.”

The duties of protection officers at Namdia include operating the close circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system, chauffeuring clients and armoured vehicle escorts and protection of company assets, protecting of resources (diamonds) and the premises and conducting risk assessments.

According to the report, Namdia had three labour matters at the labour commissioner’s office during this period – at a total cost N$8,4 million.

Graddy Haraseb

LUNCH HOURS

Namibian labour law requires that workers be given a one hour meal break after five hours of continuous work. This is depicted in section 18 of the Labour Act.

“An employer must give an employee who works continuously for more than five hours a meal interval of at least one hour,” the act reads.

Between 2018 and 2019, Pieterse worked a total of 287 lunch hours, 264 between 2019 and 2020 and 409 hours between 2020 and 2020. For this, Namdia paid her N$190 591.

Angula worked 288 hours between 2018 and 2019, 282 hours between 2019 and 2020 and 427 hours between 2020 and 2021. Namdia paid N$273 649.

Dreyer worked 272 hours between 2018 and 2019, 270 hours between 2019 and 2020 and 392 hours between 2020 and 2021. He was paid N$256 695.

Wenzel Dreyer

Rhoman worked 278 hours between 2018 and 2019, 263 hours between 2019 and 2020 and 386 hours between 2020 and 2021. He was paid N$230 293.

Snyder worked 286 hours between 2018 and 2019, 281 hours between 2019 and 2020 and 435 hours between 2020 and 2021. He was paid N$249 204.

Haraseb worked 282 hours between 2018 and 2019, 277 hours between 2019 and 2020 and 436 hours between 2020 and 2021. Namdia paid him N$252 826.

Angula, Dreyer, Rhoman, Haraseb and Snyder did not respond to questions sent to them by The Namibian, citing victimisation.
Labour expert Herbert Jauch said Namdia must have known that it was violating the law.

“The Namdia case is a clear violation of the Labour Act as the lunch break is compulsory. After five hours of work, a one hour lunch break is prescribed. This can be shortened to 30 minutes by mutual consent.

He added: “Namdia must have known that it violates the law which is why they offered compensation payment when they were reported to the labour commissioner.”

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