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Employers urged to keep staff during lockdown

Employers urged to keep staff during lockdown

Zorena Jantze

EMPLOYERS have been advised against retrenching workers during the 21-day lockdown that was put in place to curtail the further spread of the COVID-19.


This was the advice of Executive Director in the Ministry of Labour, Bro-Mathew Shinguadja and Advocate Vicki ya Toivo, Special Advisor in the Ministry of Labour, during a deliberation this morning on how COVID-19 is affecting the labour market.


At the meeting, ya Toivo stated that it is important to underline that a State of Emergency does not mean employment should be terminated and as such, employers are urged to rather hold onto their staff complement until operations can resume as normal.


She added that principles of job security and maintaining income are central to ongoing negotiations that government is having with the private sector.  


Ya Toivo further added that with regard to the possible reduction of wages of employees during this time, the lowest paid workers should be exempted.


Employers lockdown COVID-19 workers
COVID-19 IMPACT ON INDUSTRY: from left to right, Advocate Vicki ya Toivo, Deputy Minister of ICT, Emma Theofelus, and Executive Director in the Ministry of Labour, Bro-Mathew Shinguadja. Photo: Contributed


Shinguadja noted that employees should not be sent home empty-handed.


“Even if you have a difficult situation as a worker or as an employer, it is important to have discussions. Sometimes it’s true that employers cannot afford much, but it is not acceptable to send workers home empty-handed. We’ve seen in total three big companies sending they’re workers home without remunerations during the lockdown,” he said.


He further stated that government held a meeting with unions, as well as employers, and agreed that employers should not resolve to retrench their employees, and to see if there can be some relief from government to mitigate the situation.


Shinguadja added that alternatively, employers can according to section 12 of the Labour Act, choose to reduce working hours of employees, and thus reduce their salaries, or pay off wages in percentages.


With regards to how the industry has adjusted to the lockdown, Shinguadja stated that the public sector, as well as mining employees, have adjusted well, while some sectors such as tourism have seen a major disruption as most employees have been sent home.


He added the fishing sector has a mixed response as not all safety measures as listed in the State of Emergency are being adhered to.


“Some factories have a lot of production workers, and sometimes, up to 700 factory workers can work together on the production lines. Manageable shifts need to be practised to handle this better. There is also a sense of uncertainty on sending out vessels into the sea for fishing due to the lockdown in the Erongo region,” Shinguadja stated.


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