THE workers of the legendary Rössing Mine and the new owners, China National Nuclear Corporation and by definition – the Chinese Government, seem to be on an inevitable collision course.
The Mineworkers Union called for the assistance of a prominent Law Firm – Metcalfe/Beukes – to protect rights they acquired since 1988 and will this week unilaterally be suspended by the Chinese owners.
Most of Namibia’s world famous uranium resources now belong to Chinese mining companies which since February 2019 landed itself in labour controversies with an audio clip of a meeting between the previous regional governor, Cleophas Mutjivikua, and the Husab Mine management allegedly discussing loopholes in the Labour Act that can allow for mass retrenchments. Mutjivikua has since been replaced as Governor by the President, Dr Geingob, and also apologized for statements that could have led to misunderstanding between him and the Mineworkers Union.
In a letter by Metcalfe/Beukes, served on the CNNC trading as Rössing Uranium, several illegal decisions and contempt for Namibian law and sovereignty are alleged.
Metcalfe/Beukes Attorneys issued a letter on behalf of their client, the Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MUN), stating that they are acting on behalf of the MUN, specifically the Rössing Branch office, to draw attention to China National Nuclear Corporation t/a Rössing Uranium Limited certain issues. They, Metcalfe/Beukes, received instructions that on the 14th November 1988, a Procedural Agreement was concluded between Rössing Uranium Limited (RUL) and the MUN. The agreement has regulated the employer-employee relationship between the company and the union for the past 32 years.
In a rare compliment from unions to previous mine management the Rössing workers says that much humanitarian progress has been made in the entrenchment of human rights and employee rights by RUL, especially during the tenure of Mr Mike Leech as Managing Director of the company. Such respectful and caring employer-employee relationships resulted in huge profitability for the company as the employees felt part of a team, working for improvement of the economy in their country.
Metcalfe/Beukes says: “In 2009, the employees were allocated the following privileges as employees to ensure harmonious interaction between management and employees:
• An office for the fulltime MUN branch chairperson;
• An office for the Occupation, Health & Safety and Environment Chairperson who is the health and safety representative elected in terms of the Labour Act by the employees;
• An exclusive boardroom was approved, renovated, furnished and made available for MUN Rössing Branch for exclusive use for their functions as representatives of the employees;
• Free access to company stationery and use thereof was given to our client;
• Mr Herbert Jauch, a prominent labour consultant, would be contracted at company expense to provide shop-stewarding training on a regular basis, bi-annually;
• Monthly consultative meetings were held between management and the MUN Rössing branch executive to discuss and resolve labour relation issues amicably and in the best interest of all parties.”
In addition to the above, the MUN enjoyed the following rights inter alia in terms of the Procedural Agreement between the company and our client:
• The right to make statements to the media independently;
• To recognise the MUN as: “…represented on the premises by the Branch as representative of the views of its Members…”
• To fulfil its commitment as an equal opportunity employer “…This will include non-discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex or religion.”
• The right of employees to freedom of association “… (and) no victimisation of any employee for voluntarily joining the Union… (and) “no attempt shall be made by the Company to hinder the lawful activities of the Union or to infringe the rights granted by this agreement.”
“On 2 June 2020, our client received correspondence from China National Nuclear Corporation (CNCC) subsidiary RUL to the effect that the privileges provided in 2009 as set out above of this correspondence will be unilaterally revoked from 1 July 2020.
In addition to the above, unilateral decision by management monthly consultative meetings between our client and management ceased from the end of June 2019 when CNCC became the majority shareholder of RUL. No reason whatsoever for the cessation of such consultative meetings to ensure healthy employer-employee relations has ever been provided. It is also somewhat of a mystery to our clients why the company is now called China National Nuclear Corporation when one of such corporation’s subsidiaries, China National Uranium Corporation, purchased 68,62% of the shareholding in RUL”.
In the statement Metcalfe/Beukes asked on behalf of their client MUN that CNCC please advise for the edification of their client why, how and when China National Nuclear Corporation Rössing Uranium became the new name of the Company. A copy of any board resolutions and/or agreement inter the shareholders to reflect this situation would be appreciated.
Shop stewarding training to ensure guidance and property compliance with the provisions of the Labour Act 11 of 2007 similarly ceased from June 2019. The company now resorts to threats against our client instead of providing guidance, training, meetings and amicable employer-employee relationships.
The right of our client to make statements to the media and to negotiate in good faith to recruit members for the Union, the right of employees not to be victimised and the right of our client not to be hindered by the Company in its activities have since 6 March 2020 been the subject of horrendous assault by the CNNC through its subsidiary RUL.
Metcalfe/Beukes attached correspondence to their statement showing that on 6 March 2020 their client was threatened without any substantiation on the alleged “intolerant and contemptuous behaviour…” from a certain Mr Zhenqun (Peter) Fang who styles himself as General Manager Organisational Resources. This Mr Fang was not appointed according to RUL’s Recruitment Selection Procurement and Promotion Policy dated 9 December 2010 and it is nauseatingly apparent that Mr Fang has zero knowledge of labour law and/or labour relations in Namibia.
When our client questioned his appointment they were advised that he was placed in such position by CNCC. Management refuses to advise the Employment Equity Commission on such appointment and all employees are unaware of Mr Fang’s educational qualification and/or experience to hold such position. It appears that CNCC which is “…the only authorised national uranium production and operations company in China engaged in uranium exploration, mining and processing…” and an entity solely owned by the Chinese Government regards itself as being above the law in Namibia. Such actions are those of a colonial power and wipes out the independence that Namibians have enjoyed for 30 years with the apparent blessing of our government.
To add insult to injury, it was expected that such fascist correspondence would at least emanate from the Managing Director. Mr Fang also has no Namibian understudy as is required when a foreigner occupies such position of apparent importance. He is also an alternate board member. In the light of the circumvention of Namibian legislation in Mr Fang’s prominent position which he holds our client will refer this correspondence to the competent government authorities in Namibia for investigation and action.
An additional 3 further Chinese nationals have circumvented the Recruitment, Selection, Placement and Promotion Policy dated 9 December 2010 and they are:
• Mr Jingtao Chang, who is the Manager Business Improvement;
• Ms Mingfei Huand, who is the Financial Superintendent;
• Mr Yiwei Li, who is the Procurement Superintendent and Processing Support Superintendent as well as a board member.
None of the above have been reported to the Employment Equity Commission, neither do they have Namibian understudies. Their positions were never advertised, neither has it been shown that they have skills which Namibians do not have to occupy such positions. Neither has our client been included, as is usually done, in the recruitment process and the obtaining of work permits for such persons from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, and Safety & Security. Metcalfe/ Beukes attached copies of each of the abovementioned person’s passports to clearly demonstrate that they are NOT Namibian citizens and have been appointed to their positions un-procedurally and unfairly to the prejudice of Namibians and in contravention of all concepts of CNCC Rössing Uranium’s commitment to be an equal opportunity employer. This commitment to be an equal opportunity employer is now somewhat fake and shallow.
Since this foreign take-over by CNCC of RUL, our client has been threatening in renegotiating:
• Recruitment, Selection, Placement and Promotion Policy and Procedure;
• Performance and Conduct Procedure; and
• Job Valuation Agreement.
On each occasion our client receives bland correspondence advising of MUN’s bad conduct. There is no such bad conduct and it is blatantly obvious that fascist tactics and fake allegations are utilised to create a credibility basis to take action against our client. It is glaringly apparent that the sole purpose of all the victimisation, defamation, threats, bullying and lies directed at our client is to obtain the cancellation of the Procedural Agreement between our client and RUL concluded on 14 November 1988 and to undermine our client’s credibility with its members.
The fascist and apartheid reminiscent conduct in the treatment of workers and unions was placed on correspondence to the chairperson of the CNCC RUL Board of Directors on 5 June 2020 by the MUN Rössing Branch chairperson, Mr Johannes Hamutenya. This correspondence is now brought directly to your attention. Kindly, as managing director and a board member, bring it to the attention of the board of directors at your next meeting. Obviously, some of your board members will have to recuse themselves from such discussions at the board meeting.
Of further horrific concern to our client is that a pattern is emerging of retrenching Namibian employees at CNNC’s subsidiary company RUL and outsourcing the retrenched employees’ work to Chinese companies operating in Namibia on Rössing mine. This is precisely what has happened with blasters and drillers as their work is being outsourced to Beifang Mining Technology Services (Pty) Ltd. This is a pattern used by Chinese corporate entities which can no longer be concealed in Namibia. It is bound to create industrial unrest, civil disobedience and xenophobia unless Chinese State-Owned companies start treating local employees with respect and in accordance with the prevailing laws in the countries which they are commencing to occupy as colonial overlords.
Our client will NOT be intimidated into betraying our fight for independence in order to be colonised by a 21st century coloniser who ignores our Constitution, our labour laws and industrial relations built over a period of 32 years. CNCC RUL is requested to advise whether they are willing to enter into discussions with MUN in order to solve and remove the present acrimonious relations which have been artificially created by themselves.
Should no positive response be received within 21 days of receipt of the correspondence, litigation will ensure in terms of provisions of the Labour Act 11 of 2007.
Copies of the correspondence will be remitted to all Namibian authorities responsible for ensuring the future of Namibian citizens and the preservation of our client’s and its members constitutional rights and regulations of labour law rights by prevailing legislation.’
Metcalfe/Beukes also in a historic first have instructions from the union to inform the Chinese owners that its members at Rössing are not prepared to be re-colonised and relegated to second-class citizens in their own country by foreigners of a company who fronts for the Chinese Government in the uranium industry.