Around 120 members of the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) have downed tools at Nakara Tannery in Windhoek demanding transport to and from work.
Workers are ready to accept the wage increase negotiated between their employer and IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Manwu, but have stood fast on their demand for transport, voting to go on an indefinite strike after coming to a deadlock on the matter.
The impact of rising transport costs are often overlooked and increasingly low waged workers opt to walk to work in order to not incur these costs. This increases their daily calorie intake requirements which are often not met, thus workers are going hungry.
“Some workers have to walk very long distances to work, up to five kilometres each way every day and what is worse is that they are often victims of crime, being an easy target for robbers,” said Justina Jonas, General Secretary of Manwu. “This time workers felt that they could not compromise on their need for transport.”
Jonas also raised concerns on health and safety at the tannery, saying that the health consequences of long term exposure to chemicals and the lack of protective gear needed to be addressed.
In a letter to Nakara’s Managing Director, Kevin Davidow, IndustriALL's general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:
We urge you to take seriously the demands of workers for company provided transport to and from work in the interest of their security and well-being. We also call upon you to work with MANWU to address the concerns of your employees including making improvements to health and safety standards at your tannery.
The company has brought in scab labour despite workers being on a legal strike since 28 June 2014. Manwu has applied for a court interdict to prevent this. Nakara was the Africa regional winner in 2011 of the ‘Tannery of the Year’, an awards programme for the global tanning industry, for amongst other things, its commitment to its workers.