By Hileni Nembwaya
NATIONAL Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) President, Ismael Kasuto, says the country’s workers continue to feel unprotected, and that it is high time that the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation acts decisively against exploitation.
Speaking during Monday’s Workers’ Day commemoration in Eenhana, Kasuto said, “Some workers continue to feel the wrath of poverty, as they feel unprotected and unprioritised by the laws and systems of our government. It is high time that the custodian ministry acts against this exploitation, so that worker interests can be respected.”
He said that workers in key sectors, such as mining, are in a precarious position.
“Whilst we have made strides in some industries, the vast majority of the Namibian workers remain vulnerable, and most of them still remain affected by the exploitive economic system,” said Kasuto.
He added that threats to employment security are being used against workers, as a tool to silence them, to stop them from joining unions.
He said that construction is one of the sectors that have suffered severe job losses, as a result of austerity measures put in place by government, as it moved to address the current economic situation.
“Namibia has a capitalist economy. However, in practical terms there exists two economies, namely the formal and the informal economies. The situation prevails as a result of capitalist behaviour, which pushes actors that may not compete successfully in the formal capital, to the fringes,” he said.
Kasuto said illegal labour disturbances suggest that workers are desperate and that labour relations are volatile in the country, and should be looked at.
Kasuto added that cases of unfair labour practices had increased, while there were few arbitrators and conciliators in the country, which was affecting the efficiency with which labour matters were being dealt with.
Many workers also continue to suffer in silence, he added.
President Hage Geingob used his opportunity at the podium to blast those who are critical of the proposed New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), without offering alternatives to address the economic injustices of the past, which have led to high levels of inequality in the country.
The Head of State also said that government does not support get-rich-quick-schemes and the proliferation of black billionaires, at the expense of the majority of working-class Namibians.
Geingob bemoaned how in the past 27 years there has not been any significant transformation in the mining, financial services and tourism sectors.
“There has been uproar from some people regarding NEEEF. While criticising the imperfections of this policy, nobody seems to be bringing any alternative solutions to the table, regarding the inequality question, wherein NEEEF is located.
“When we look at economic sectors such as mining, financial services and tourism, we must admit that over the past 27 years, we have not witnessed the significant transformation that we envisaged. This cannot continue, if we are planning to bring prosperity to our workers and our people,” Geingob said.
He added that shared prosperity was the only way to accomplish the objectives of Vision 2030.
The president said that government remains resolute in its commitment towards fighting poverty and corruption.
He added that under pillar four of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), which deals with social advancement, government plans to tackle poverty head-on, by generating inclusive wealth, through the creation of decent job opportunities.
“In order to create more jobs, we must become more competitive as an economy, and as a workforce, in order to attract labour-intensive investments. Today we are talking about smart work. Like all other forms of human interaction in today’s world, the working environment is affected by information technology.
“We are living in the information age and the way we work is dependent on our ability to adapt to technology. Under the HPP, government will place great emphasis on ensuring that the training of our workforce is intensified, in order to improve competitiveness.”
Geingob added that trade unions have a role to play, not only in advocating for better wages for their members, but to ensure that their members become the most highly-trained and skilled workers in the region.
“Let us all Harambee towards job creation and economic advancement. Government, the private sector and our workers must all hold hands and pull in one direction, towards creating more jobs, towards enhanced safety and towards higher wages. Inclusivity spells harmony and peace,” Geingob said.
“Exclusivity spells discord and conflict. Unity is strength. Division is weakness and sharing is wealth. Twenty-seven years after independence, we can no longer tolerate to live in a Namibia where the minority own all the means of production and the wealth, while the majority continue to languish in poverty.”
Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation Minister, Erkki Nghimtina appealed to all Namibian workers to join trade unions, in order to achieve decent working conditions.
He said that inter-union rivalries are diminishing the strength that could be achieved through the unity of workers, in particular industries and workplaces.
“Organised workers must be the backbone of Namibia’s efforts to become a prosperous nation. I call upon trade unions to fulfil their responsibility to organise unorganised workers into trade unions, and to contribute to sound labour relations and productive work, for the development of Namibia,” Nghimtina added.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015