1 February 2013

Namibia: Essentials Services Designated

In a first for the country, government has announced a list of professions designated as essential services, in a move that will make it illegal for affected employees to go on strike.

The new Labour Minister, Doreen Sioka, announced Wednesday that following extensive consultations between representatives from the state, employers and workers, 15 professions in the medical field and six professions under local authorities have been designated as essential services.

Ambulance services, casualties services, theater services, intensive care unit services, clinical/cardiac services, laboratory services, pharmaceutical services, dental services radiography services, physiotherapy services, mortuary services, medical services including specialist services, hospital kitchen services, hospital laundry services, and nursing services have all been designated as essential services.

For services falling under the ambit of local authorities, emergency management services, disaster management services, potable water services, waste water management services, water reclamation services, and scientific services were also proclaimed as essential services.

According to Section 1 of the Labour Act 2007, essential service is a service which the interuption of would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population of Namibia. Section 75 of the said Act prohibits strikes and lockouts over disputes between parties engaged in essential services.

Section 77 of the Labour Act provides for the designation of essential services by the Minister of Labour and Social Services upon recommendation of the Labour Advisory Council following an investigation and report by the Essential Services Committee.

Minister Sioka said the Labour Act of 2007 guarantees the rights of employees to strike and of employers to lockout workers, provided that they do so in accordance with the procedures of the Act, adding that the law, however, recognises exceptions to the right to strike and to lockout.

She said: "Section 75 of the Labour Act prohibits strikes and lockouts over disputes betweeen parties engaged in essential services. The reason for the prohibition should be apparent: policymakers and legislators have taken into account that, despite the need to protect important labour rights, it is important that the exercise of such rights should not be permitted to jeopardize the health, life and safety of any person."

The Minister said application for designation of seesential services can be made by interested employers or employess or the committee [the Essential Service Committee] can intitate its own investigation.

More services are expected to be proclaimed as essential services in the coming months.

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