TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Namibia: Ramatex Subsidiary to Close Down

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Source: New Era (Windhoek)

Rhino Garments, a subsidiary of Ramatex Namibia, is closing its doors in April 2005.

The company that employs 1 700 workers gave notification and warning of possible closure to the Ministry of Trade and Industry this month. The future of its employees is still not known.

It has complained that it no longer has a market for its products and therefore there is no reason to continue operating in Namibia.

In a letter to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the company has also asked the ministry to help in the retrenchment of workers as from April.

Ramatex Namibia factories and all subsidiaries are currently battling to clarify certain written accusations, yet again brought to the attention of the buyers in the United States of America.

The company says that it is becoming more and more difficult as this may well be the hundredth time they have given their assurances to their buyers that they are following all required procedures in their operations.

It is said that a labour union in the country has written a letter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) informing it about alleged prevailing environment and labour conditions in the factory.

A certain Neil Kearney, in a letter availed to Nampa, wrote to all the Ramatex Namibia buyers, telling them not to buy products from Namibia because of major workers' rights violations and appalling working conditions prevailing at the Ramatex factories in the country.

Speaking to Nampa on inquiry, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Andrew Ndishishi, confirmed the closure of the garment factory.

But, Ndishishi pointed out that they were trying to discuss the problem that exists. He could however not say whether or not the company would close after this discussion.

He said Rhino Garments did not receive any orders for this year from the buyers, and it was true there was no reason for the company to continue its operations while there were no markets.

He also confirmed that Ramatex garments also received orders until the end of August this year.

"If there are no buyers, what can they do?" he asked.

Ndishishi expressed disappointment over some individuals who campaigned against their own country.

"Now thousands of Nami-bians will be unemployed again. We are supposed to solve the problem ourselves than to opt to destroy our own people," he said, adding that now the workers would suffer.

"We are still discussing the issue," he said, but he did not know what fruits would be born out of this discussion.

"We have responded to the letter of Kearney about labour relations at Ramatex. The Office of the President also responded to the letter, but it seems the buyers have decided not to buy products from Namibia anymore," Ndishishi said.

Workers at Ramatex have since the beginning of this year been asked to go on forced paid leave. Many at Ramatex have been seen roaming the streets looking for jobs.

"Our future is uncertain. We do not know where we will go from here. Ramatex is closing," said one worker who preferred to remain anonymous.

She said that their supervisors at the Rhino Garments factory had already started packing and selling their items, which they did not need.

She said the supervisors had told them that they were leaving the country, as the factory was closing down.

"Where our future lies is not known," she lamented.

Ramatex factories and its subsidiaries employ close to 8 000 Namibians.

The company produces textiles and most of the buyers are from the United States of America.

In January, Ramatex Namibia wrote to the Ministry of Trade and Industry warning it of possible closure.

"It comes to our attention that our NAFAU counterparts have stirred unrest this time not with our workers but now amongst our buyers through the International Textile, Garments Leather Workers Federation," it said.

"We have made all efforts in resolving our labour issues with the NAFAU representatives, giving them an office on our premises to conduct their daily business with our workers and also having meetings with NAFAU and management right through. Now, it seems more likely that their efforts are more resolved to destroy Ramatex Namibia's investment in Namibia," the letter stated.

"We have little in salvaging what name Ramatex Namibia has to our buyers. Within the following weeks, we must anticipate orders being extracted from Namibia, and within weeks we have to expect the closure of all our factories," the letter continued.

It added: "We have run out of words to express our disappointment with such betrayal. We had very high hopes in our continuous progress with the Namibian nation. Though, as far as this may lead to, our efforts are being constricted to such. Well, we will leave your rightful judgement to prevail," the letter said.

NAFAU's secretary-general Kiros Sackarias confirmed to Nampa about notifying the labour organization of the labour problems at Ramatex factory, but he said that when the organization initiated the campaign of stopping buyers from buying products from Namibia, it did not inform the government and the union.

"We have informed the government about the labour relations problem that exist at Ramatex, but we have also discussed the problem with them," he said, adding that the organization decided to campaign without the union's concern.

He also said if the company decided to close down, he had not been informed because he had been on sick leave.

"We have signed a recognition agreement with the company and we deserve to be informed also," he said.

But he refused to comment on Ramatex's possible closure and the way forward for the union.

"As I am not informed about the closure, I also have no comment on the issue," he said.

Efforts to get comment from Ramatex officials proved fruitless.



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