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Namibia: Ramatex Garment Factory to Quit?

Published date:
Monday, 15 May 2006
The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia's government will have to cough up in the region of half a billion Namibian dollars to buy the Ramatex Textile Factory if it wants to keep the more than 6 000 workers from losing their jobs.

It will have to make this decision within the next week.

This is what the Executive Director of the Ramatex Berhad group, Albert Lim Poh Boon, put to Prime Minister Nahas Angula last week.

After only four years in the country, the factory plans to shut up shop soon.

What Ramatex management has shrugged off as rumours in recent months, has now been confirmed.

Whether Government decides to take over the factory or not, the Malaysians are ending their local operations.

Union called in

Prime Minister Nahas Angula confirmed to The Namibian on Friday that Boon had put "proposals" to Government, but did not reveal what these were.

Angula said he had been told that the performance of Ramatex workers was below expectations.

"Government is now seized of the matter," is all Angula would say.

However, The Namibian has reliably learned that following the discussions, Government hastily convened a technical committee on Ramatex and invited the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) to compile a response to the proposals on the table.

NUNW Secretary General Evilastus Kaaronda also confirmed to The Namibian on Friday that he and the NUNW's First Vice President, David Namalenga, were assigned to deal with the matter, but declined to reveal more until this had been done.

"We are busy preparing a response.

It will be premised on the concerns of the workers and issues raised in collective bargaining agreements with Ramatex," said Kaaronda.

However, a well-placed source indicated to The Namibian that the union would come down hard on Government for not having heeded unions warnings in the past that Ramatex's future in Namibia was uncertain and workers' jobs under threat.

"Those guys never meant to stay.

There was no such intention," said the source.

"Where is the agreement between Ramatex and Government, or was it just a gentleman's agreement?"

Turnaround Plan?

The Namibian understands that Government is likely to suggest a turnaround plan for the factory in an effort to keep its doors open.

But this would inevitably mean layoffs and even more incentives in cash and kind from Government coffers, sources say.

But it appears unlikely that Ramatex will consider such an offer.

Since its arrival in Namibia, Ramatex has been pampered with services at reduced cost.

The City of Windhoek was forced to make available the property in Otjomuise on the outskirts of Windhoek for the building of the factory at no cost to the company, and subsidised water and electricity costs until last year.

Boon neither met with the unions nor the workers during his fleeting visit to Namibia and The Namibian was told by a factory manager that he had already left the country within a day of the discussions with Angula when The Namibian tried to make contact with him.

But Boon is alleged to have cited bad publicity, tense labour relations with workers and the unions, high labour costs, poor productivity and a lack of competitiveness as reasons for closing the Namibian factory.

Workers say they have been left in the dark over their fate, despite meetings with shop stewards and union leaders from the Namibia Food and Allied Workers' Union (Nafau) at the end of last week.

"They are not clear.

Workers demand to be informed of the truth as soon as possible.

Workers are tired of this," a worker told The Namibian.

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