13 February 2013

Namibia: Labour Cautions On Minimum Wages for Domestics

THE Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has warned employers of domestic workers against renegotiating the employment contracts of their workers in anticipation of a high minimum wage.

The ministry was responding to queries from The Namibian after reports that many employers of domestic workers are trying to enter into new contracts with their workers that would mean that they would work fewer days.

These actions are allegedly prompted by the release of a survey report by the Namibia Farmworkers' Union (Nafwu) and the Namibia Domestic and Allied Workers' Union (Ndawu) in December last year that indicated that most respondents were in favour of an monthly minimum wage of N$2 000 or N$100 daily for domestic workers.

At the time of the release of the report Nafwu and Ndawu claimed that domestic workers remain the most disadvantaged in Namibia.

Some domestic workers are now fearing that they may lose their jobs or earn lower salaries, as many employers are apparently not keen to pay the unions' recommended minimum wage.

The liaison officer in the Labour Ministry, Paulus Ashipala, says no minimum wage for domestic workers has been set, as the commission established by the Labour Ministry has not yet submitted its minimum wage recommendations to the minister.

The commission, established in May last year to investigate the terms and conditions of employment of domestic workers, had its mandate extended from December 31 2012 to April 15 2013 because the turnout at consultative meetings was disappointing.

"If employers are renegotiating domestic workers' employment contracts under the purport of a new minimum wage, then that's a very unfortunate situation since the minimum wage is not yet in place. They should desist from such tactics," Ashipala said.

But he shot down allegations that there has been an increase in the number of labour disputes between domestic workers and employers since the beginning of this year which could have been prompted by the anticipated minimum wage.

"The inspectorate division of the ministry has not recorded an increase of reported cases as such at the Windhoek office recently," he said, adding that only few cases involving unfair labour practices were recorded, such as ordinary unfair dismissal and dismissal based on workers' failure to produce doctor's certificates after absence from work.

"It is however important to note that domestic workers, like all other employees, are protected by the Labour Act of 2007. They should thus enjoy rights and conditions of employment applicable to all employees as provided for in the Act," he warned.

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