21 January, 2021The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) is challenging the unfair dismissals of nine union leaders at Rössing Uranium mine and calling for their reinstatement. The union says besides the charges being spurious, due process was not followed and the disciplinary hearings that took place were a shamble.
The nine members of the former branch executive committee at the mine are accused of gross negligence, bringing the mine owner, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Rössing Uranium, into disrepute, and for breaching confidentiality.
The charges came after the nine refused to accept CNNC’s proposals to amend the existing collective bargaining agreement. The union says the dismissed leaders also asked “uncomfortable questions” on the irregular appointment of some senior managers at the mine. The managers, who were recruited from China, had work permits for another company and not for Rössing.
MUN says when CNNC bought Rössing Uranium mine from Rio Tinto in July 2019, guarantees were made that working conditions would remain the same and that existing collective bargaining agreements would be respected.
However, a few months later, CNNC wanted changes in the agreement, including on leave, medical aid, wages, and retrenchment provisions. After facing resistance from the union and being notified of impending strike action, the company instead targeted the union leadership.
“These sound industrial relations, built over many years with Rio Tinto, are not only guaranteed as part of the asset sale to the current owners but are guaranteed in the constitution of Namibia. Unfortunately, the violations reflect a disturbing pattern of abuse by Chinese Investment in Africa which will not be allowed,”
says Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director.
The matter is now before the labour commissioner for arbitration and conciliation.
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, says:
“CNCC is intent on busting the union through intimidation and attempting to instil fear in workers to stop them from joining the union. This anti-union approach to labour relations is against the existing collective bargaining agreements and threatens the cordial relations that exist with the workers.
“We urge the employer to respect the existing collective agreements and to not temper with the rights of workers to demand better working conditions.”
Rössing Uranium is an open pit mine whose lifespan is expected to last until 2032.
Photo Credit: Conleth Brady / IAEA