TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Namibia: Govt says it can handle 'Ramatex'

Tuesday, 08 February 2005

Source: The Namibian (Windhoek)

Government says it is capable of resolving all labour issues with Malaysian textile factory Ramatex, as international pressure mounts for the country to take action to improve the working conditions of thousands of workers.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday called a press conference to confirm that it has stepped in to facilitate talks between the Ramatex Textile Factory and the Namibia Food and Allied Workers' Union (Nafau) on issues of labour relations and productivity at the factories on the western outskirts of Windhoek.

"It is a known fact that the interests of the union and the company cannot be the same. There has to be divergence," said Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Andrew Ndishishi.

"I'm very happy that after the last consultation the two parties have already started talking," he said.

"From Government's side we are happy that the issues are being discussed and that they will work closely to ensure the issues are resolved on both sides."

Ndishishi said the parties were discussing "an agenda of issues", but neither Government nor the union would elaborate on what exactly these were.

Union representatives were notably silent at yesterday's gathering.

"All we want is commitment [to rectify the issues]," Kiros Sakarias, Nafau's General Secretary, told The Namibian afterwards.

Two weeks ago the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) wrote to retailers who use Ramatex to inform them of what it termed "appalling labour practices" and asked major international buyers, mainly from the US, to take action to ensure Ramatex abides by international labour standards.

President Sam Nujoma last week responded to a letter sent to him by the ITGLWF on the matter, saying Government was pulling out all stops to deal with the matter.

"Whatever misunderstandings there are, we are capable of handling it as a nation within the national framework and that's what we are doing," Ndishishi said in response to the ITGLWF's most recent action.

"We [are] our own spokesperson as a country and we don't need anybody to help us. Whatever problems affect Namibia we can resolve these. We have enough means and instruments for that," said Ndishishi.

Finance Permanent Secretary Calle Schlettwein told the media that it was imperative that the problems were ironed out for the sake of the important economic dimension Ramatex presented for the country.

Schlettwein said the 1,5 per cent contribution Ramatex makes to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was "significant" and noted that the factory alone earned 17,5 per cent of the country's foreign currency.

"It is crucial that we conduct these negotiations so as not to put at risk this large investment," he said.

He added that it was important to resolve all outstanding labour matters before they developed into disputes.

Human Resources Manager David Yong said yesterday that rumours spread by its workforce that sections of its factory were closing down, were untrue.

He said the closure of Factory C last month was part of a restructuring exercise and that the affected workers were redeployed in other factories.

"You should not listen to rumours. You should come directly to management and find out what is happening," he said.

When contacted on the issue two weeks ago, Yong said he could not comment in the absence of senior managers.

Yong maintained that one of the factory's buyers, ShopKo, had visited the factory last week to conduct its own investigations of the factory's operations and not in response to the ITGLWF's call for action from buyers.

Yong said he had permitted the representatives access to the factory's personnel records to dispel reports that they were employing child labour.

He said the ShopKo representatives had also confronted the factory about its wage structure, believing that the lowest paid workers were only earning US$41 per month.

Yong said the lowest salary paid to factory workers was around US$125.

"I don't say it's good, [but] it is not as low as people say," he maintained.



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Other regularly updated trade statistics on AGOA.info include: (click each link to view)

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  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

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