13 November 2017

Namibia: Construction Union in Big Wage Compromise

THE Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union's general secretary Justina Jonas-Emvula admitted that the union had made a big sacrifice to conclude a wage agreement with the Construction Industries Federation last Tuesday.

While the union had been pushing for a 13% increase and the industry tried to keep it low at 2,5%, the parties finally closed the deal at N$5,6% - the union having to sacrifice far more than the industry.

"Although potential critics would see this compromise as no achievement at all, we see this as something worth commending in light of the challenges the sector is facing," Jonas-Emvula said at a press conference at Walvis Bay last Thursday, where she announced the wage agreement.

She added that the increase was only valid for 2018, whereafter the union will resume with its normal negotiations in the same year for the next two years as per the norm.

The latest agreement will be submitted to the labour ministry to be processed and gazetted before January 2018.

Jonas-Emvula said the union was aware of Namibia's struggling economy, which has most severely affected the construction industry because most projects have been put on ice with the hope of cutting costs at government level.

There are currently only 12 major projects in Namibia, with some minor ones at local authority level.

She, however, lamented that the construction industry was never informed of the cost-cutting measures, which has resulted in thousands of construction workers being unemployed.

The union called on the public procurement board to increase the empowerment of local contractors within the sector by avoiding giving mega projects to foreign investors who are not adding much value to the sector.

"Namibia has reputable and experienced local contractors who can do mega projects in the country. Opportunities must be provided to them without undermining them. This will be in the interest of the Namibian worker, as we will ensure long-term employment in the sector, as opposed to what is happening now with multi-national contractors who import workers and machinery and then export all profits after the project is completed," Jonas-Emvula stressed.

During the press conference, she extended the union's condolences to the family of Petrus Iilonga, who fell to his death while working at the Neckertal Dam site last week.

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