The Namibia Employers' Federation (NEF) took exception this week to a statement by the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation issued last week, urging employers across all sectors to ensure all employees are fully remunerated for March and April regardless of the severe impact the Corona virus has on business revenues.
The Federation accuses the ministry of reneging on the resolutions taken at a tripartite meeting between the ministry and employers where feedback was provided on the dire situation most Namibian companies are facing.
The Federation's Secretary General, Daan Strauss said the meeting was conducted in "the tripartite spirit of jointly finding solutions to the current and future situation all Namibian employers face. There was a general consensus amongst all participants to the meeting - the majority of which were union representatives - that an unprecedented labour crisis is upon us. As employer representative organisation we are therefore very disappointed that the announcement made by the Ministry of Labour, does not reflect a common position of the stakeholders present. We are also of the opinion that the tripartite forum does not have the statutory powers to issue a mandatory order."
The Namibia Employers' Federation stated that according to the Namibian Labour Act, Section 23 (5) the employer indeed has the right to ask employees to take leave, if accrued. "However, the Labour Act does not cover that the employer can ask the employee to take unpaid leave. The NEF therefore suggests that this be negotiated with the employee, explaining the situation. The Labour Act also does not cover granting leave that has not been accrued but it is common practice and a better alternative than unpaid leave."
"One also has to bear in mind, that if an employer can not pay full salaries, they can consider reduction of salaries with simultaneous reduction of work hours for three months, with the possibility of extending this by another three months as per the Labour Act, Section 12 (6) and (7); or ultimately, retrenchment."
"It is imperative to remind the Namibian public and employees in particular that our economy has been subjected to a period of continued recession prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, which has put various business and industries under severe financial pressure and continues to threaten the continued existence of some businesses."