23 January 2013

Namibia: Basic Wage for Insurance Agents - Bankers Union

THE Namibian Bank and Allied Workers Union (NBAWU) is demanding a basic wage for long- and short-term insurance sales agents after a survey conducted by the union showed that they only receive commission from insurance companies such as Old Mutual and Metropolitan.

The secretary of the union, Christophina Shiya, told The Namibian that more insurance companies would be approached regarding this matter.

NBAWU is requesting Namfisa and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to pressure these insurance companies to immediately implement a basic minimum wage for workers who have only earned commission until now.

Lawrence Ihuhua, the secretary general of NBAWU, said workers employed on commission basis alone do not receive the benefits that permanent employees receive, but they are subjected to the same contractual obligations as their permanent colleagues.

He said paying someone commission alone does not provide the worker with financial security.

"The fact that they are straight commission-based remuneration means that if you sell nothing, you earn nothing," said Ihuhua.

Furthermore, workers who are paid on a commission basis alone have no job security as institutions may terminate them without severance pay or other compensation, he added.

Commission-based workers are treated as independent contractors and not as employees.

"The union conducted a survey to establish whether these agents operate as independent contractors, but to our surprise the outcome was very worrisome," Ihuhua said.

He said some contractual obligations are full-time work. "Sales agents are required to do the work on the employer's premises using electronic facilities that belong to the employer."

The union says these individuals deserve an "industrial basic minimum wage".

"The extent to which the services rendered by these workers are always an integral part of the business principles and the type of work is directly related to the company's core work," said Ihuhua, which is one of the reasons agents in the long- and short-term insurance industries deserve a basic wage beside their commission.

"A steady maximum basic salary that is tax exempted to cover the basic living expenses and an added compensation which will serve as a commission incentive and definitely reward them for certain levels of achievements. Payment on a regular basis will give workers job and income security," said Ihuhua.

Neither Metropolitan nor Old Mutual could be reached for comment on the matter.

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