Namibia: Save Our Jobs, Mr President - Construction Workers

16 September 2019

Windhoek — Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) General Secretary Justina Jonas-Emvula last week told President Hage Geingob that if nothing radical is done, workers in the construction industry will continue losing jobs.

The industry has already saw over 10 000 workers sent home in recent months, the union said.

"Cde President, for the past three years we have been engaging the finance, works, urban and rural ministries as well as Roads Authority and the [Central] Public Procurement Board about creation of decent jobs and better conditions of employment," Jonas-Emvula said.

She said the union's concerns are well known to these ministries and agencies but are not considered.

Jonas-Emvula said despite the economic decline in the construction industry - from US$1211.3 million to an all-time low US$788.6 million in July 2019 - the union remains positive that the sector remains one of the most important legs for the country's economy in terms of GDP contribution.

"As a result of this decline, many jobs within the construction and entire supplied chain got lost and many companies, especially small-medium enterprises, closed down," she said.

"As we continue to witness the effect of the decline of this industry, it is evidence by job loses mainly of employees of the local companies," she added. However, she said these local companies continue to be neglected and are not given big capital projects including the well-established contractors who have demonstrated their capacity to sustain the bloodline of the industry.

"We remain convinced that is the prime duty of government to create a conducive environment for the investment, but also to inject blood into the industry through facilitating access to big capital projects, which have proved in the past to create decent jobs for the construction employees including its supply chain," Jonas-Emvula said.

She said the union witnessed a suffocation of local contractors who have demonstrated in the past to create decent jobs, better working conditions for the construction workers compare to the transnational companies who are been awarded big capital projects with minimal local ownership participation.

"These transnational companies heavily subsidised by their government or their international mother bodies only contribute towards paying tax, compared to local companies who demonstrated to contribute much more than that," she said.

Jonas-Emvula begged Geingob to help see that local companies get access to designated capital projects on a mandatory basis.

"Projects should be earmarked only for local joint ventures in every capital project, instead of our government awarding such capital projects to transnational companies with controlling shares," she said.

She said capital projects like the Hosea Kutako Dual Carriage Road Project, which funded by African Development Bank and Government, the Hosea Kutako International Airport Project and many others should be joint ventures with locals.

"We completely not in agreement for local companies to be subjected to subcontracting work only, as capacity building is done when one is in full control of the project," Jonas-Emvula said.

The union leader says the union strongly believes that President Geingob's intervention in the "heartfelt cry" will make a huge difference in the lives of the construction workers, their families and communities.

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