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Furnmart backs down in Namibia

MBONGENI MGUNI
FILE PIC
Regional furniture retail group, Furnmart this week staved off a strike threat by its 300 workers in Namibia, who had threatened to down tools over an industrial dispute.

The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union, a representative organisation had officially declared a dispute with Furnmart and was last

Thursday due to begin polling workers at the retail group’s 34 branches in that country. Furnmart, which is headquartered and listed in Botswana, is a leading regional furniture retailer, with 49 branches in Botswana and 36 in South Africa.

This week, the Union’s deputy general secretary, Enwich Kazondu told BusinessWeek that strike action was off the cards for now after top management from Gaborone intervened.

“Management in Gaborone called and told us that after numerous meetings in Botswana, they had resolved that the workers requests should be acceded to,” he said from Windhoek.

“They resolved that the management here should meet workers and address these concerns.”

While Furnmart’s workers in Namibia claim to be suffering “injustice at work, low wages, unfavourable conditions of employment and lack

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of proper representation,” according to available documents, their latest bone of contention was management’s alleged denial of a loan arrangement for employees there.

Unionists said the management had claimed instituting such a loan arrangement for workers would be “burdensome” for its administration.

“We have now actually invited the service provider for the loan product to come and make a presentation to the workers and management, which will clear some of the concerns management had on this,” Kazondu said.

“Once we have an agreement signed for the loan product, then the Union will strike the dispute off the roll officially.”

Furnmart, its workers and the Union are due for wage negotiations next month, which Kazondu described as historic in the Namibian furniture retail sector.

Reached for comment on the matter, local Furnmart officials referred BusinessWeek to their Namibian counterparts, who were unreachable for comment.



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