29 January 2014

Namibia: Construction Industry Calls for Adherence to Minimum Wage Law

Windhoek — The Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF) and the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) have emphasised the importance of adhering to minimum employment conditions in the construction industry, as promulgated in Government Gazette No. 5372, Government Notice No. 334, of December, 24, 2013.

The promulgated collective agreement covers minimum wages for labourers and different categories of skilled and semi-skilled artisans, health and safety standards, minimum protective clothing, minimum productivity levels, living away allowances and service allowance. Of immediate relevance to the industry is the adjustment to the minimum wages, which are to be increased by 9 percent for the first year and 9.5 percent for the subsequent year. The increase for the first year will be applicable from September 15, 2013 until May 31, 2014. For the subsequent year the increase of 9.5 percent will be applicable from June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015.

Changes to the previous collective agreement also include an adjustment of the service allowance from 120 hours to 144 hours. This allowance will be calculated pro-rata for each fully worked month that the employee was in service during that specific year. This now also has become effective as of September 2013. The wage increase was higher than in previous years, which was then 7.5 percent and 8 percent respectively. With the simultaneous adjustment to the service allowance and taking into consideration the inflation rate, wages have effectively increased in real terms. Housing and medical services had also been key points on the agenda and MANWU's demands included a housing allowance, as well as medical insurance.

However, the CIF, despite recognising the need, were more inclined to see these issues addressed at a national level. At the same time, it was agreed between the two negotiating parties that a task force would be established to address issues affecting workers in the industry. Baerbel Kirchner, Consulting General Manager of the CIF said it is critical that all contractors, bona fide Namibian and foreign companies, in Namibia's construction industry strive towards adherence to all laws, including minimum wage and employment conditions. "It is in everybody's interest that the minimum wages are being paid across the industry, and that optimal work conditions are maintained. This will ensure the avoidance of cost differentiation to the detriment of workers in the industry and would help the industry in getting closer to a more equal playing field," said Kirchner.

"Enforcement of minimum employment conditions by the authorities is also critical. Construction sites must be visited regularly. It is therefore important that the capacity of the labour inspectorate will be enhanced and that inspectors also acquaint themselves with the requirements as reflected in Government Gazette No. 5372," he said. "We note that many Namibians are now engaging their businesses in the construction industry. We want to ensure that construction workers are paid rightful wages and decent conditions of employment are maintained. A serious call to the government is to ensure not to give tenders to employers who are not complying with the labour laws, as per the president's statement.

We are still witnessing companies given tenders even though they are known not to comply with the national labour laws. Paying a construction employee a rightful wage will assist to alleviate poverty within our society, but not only to alleviate poverty, but to assist these groups of employees to afford the basic needs of life," said Justina Jonas, General Secretary of MANWU. "We also appeal to the companies as well as government which gives tenders to the contractors and all individuals who have their houses renovated, to ensure that appointed contractors or subcontractors are paying their workers as per the Government Gazette."

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