27 July 2012

Namibia: Employers Want to Hold Nation Hostage - Ngatjizeko

Windhoek — Namibian employers appear to be out of touch with the reality confronting lowly paid workers, hence their resistance to the implementation of the Labour Amendments Act that would protect workers, said the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Immanuel Ngatjizeko.

He emphasised that the implementation date of the Labour Amendments Act remains August 01. Ngatjizeko says unlike section 128, which saw government squaring off in the courts with a labour hire company, the new amendments do not ban labour-hire companies.

The amendments, which replace section 128, "regulate the practice of labour hire" and all private employment agencies - and user enterprises are free to enter into lawful commercial agreements as long as they are consistent with the new regulatory scheme.

The ministry says recent public engagements by the Namibian Employers Federation (NEF), on the impact of the amendments on employers, "can unfortunately only be described as a disinformation campaign intended to frighten employers and to hold the Namibian nation hostage".

The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare wants to know why the NEF has been quiet throughout the formulation of the amendments Bill, the debate and adoption of the Bill in Parliament, as well as the signing of the Act and the gazetting of the commencement date.

The federation sprang into action three weeks ago, organising a public forum, where employers elected an eight-member steering committee in an eleventh hour attempt to stall the implementation of the Labour Amendments Act.

Employers argue that the amendments, that took government attorneys nearly two years to work on, contain definitions that are too broad and do not take into account the economic reality of employing people during high or peak seasons.

They further say the absence of clear definitions of terms effectively bans the operations of recruitment agencies, as well as security companies and the general outsourcing of non-core functions.

This week the NEF visited the fishing industry in the Erongo Region to consult and advise employers on the operational impact of the amendments. Employers say the fishing industry is bound to be the most affected by the amendments.

"The NEF distorted the provisions of the law to scare employers into believing they may no longer hire temporary employees, that all current temporaries must be converted to permanent employees and that contractors will become the employers of the employees of the sub-contractors on August 1," said Ngatjizeko.

The amendments provide that a company making use of employees sourced from an agency or labour hire company, should accord equal treatment to such employees. The conditions of employment, safety, health and other benefits should be equal to those of permanent employees who are doing the same job. Such employees are also free to join any trade union and cannot be dismissed at was in the past.

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