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Focus on high unemployment in Namibia on Mayday

Focus on high unemployment in Namibia on Mayday

Niël Terblanché
Unemployment levels, especially amongst the youth in Namibia, are currently at unacceptable levels.
During the commemoration of Workers Day in Walvis Bay Bro. Matthew Shinguadja on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Emeloyment Creation, Tommy Nambahu, said the situation is exacerbated by the prevailing economic hardships that Namibia is currently experiencing.
“Many businesses have resorted to retrenchments in order to keep afloat. Some companies have even closed down leaving many of our citizens without jobs.”
Besides reassuring workers that Government will ensure that employment creation is mainstreamed in all its future developmental plans he called on all employers and workers during this time of hardship to work together in order to turn around the negative effects of the bad economic situation on the people of Namibia.

Pictured: Bro Matthew Shinguadja, Executive Director of the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Emeloyment Creation and people attending the commemoration of Workers Day in Walvis Bay.

The speech of Deputy Minister Tommy Nambau as read by Bro Matthew Shinguadja reads as follows:
It is the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation’s honor and privilege and, indeed, that of myself to have been invited to this very important occasion by the NUNW for May Day Commemoration.
The theme for workers day this year is “WORKERS UNITE AGAINST CORRUPTION FOR GOOD CORPORATE GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABL EMPLOYMENT” this is indeed an appropriate theme as it addresses some of the current burning issues facing our country. For many years Workers day has been commemorated worldwide to highlight the plight of workers and to demonstrate solidarity with workers against exploitation and unfair labour practices. On this day we honor and recognize the workers who dedicated their lives for societies around the world to function and thrive, in particular Namibia. For this reason the Government of the Republic of Namibia through the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation has since independence been forceful against exploitative labour in the country.
The Ministry was mandated to put together a legal framework to address the challenges in the labour Market. These are:
The Employment Equity Commission which, is an integral part of the Ministry has an oversight function of the implementation of affirmative action in the workplace in accordance with Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 1998 (Act No. 29 of 1998). The objective of the Act is to achieve equal opportunity in employment in accordance with Article 10 and 23 of the Namibian Constitution. The ultimate aim is to ensure that, the workforce profile of every employer reflects the demographics of Namibia at all levels.
Although the analysis of statistical data gleaned from the affirmative action reports received from relevant employers across all industrial sectors, indicate that there has been an encouraging improvement in the representation of persons in designated group at the three top-most occupational levels, the workers, especially those who are from designated groups are still facing challenges as far as equity at the workplace is concerned, namely:
a) Failure by relevant employers to give preference to suitably qualified Namibians especially those from the designated groups: contrary to the spirit of the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 1998 (Act No. 29 of 1998), which requires employers to give preference to members from designated groups when filling vacant positions, a number of relevant employers especially in the private sector, still disregard the Act’s intended beneficiaries by giving preference to, mostly white Namibian males and non-Namibian employees.
b) Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (PWDs): PWDs are the most affected members of the designated groups and they are, if suitably qualified, supposed to be given more preference than ordinary members of the other two designated groups, namely racially disadvantaged persons and women. However, their representation remains marginal at the workplace despite several efforts by government and other stakeholders to mainstream disability.
c) Discrimination in terms of pay and benefits: Workers, especially those who are from the racially disadvantaged group are still discriminated against when it comes to pay and benefits. This is mostly common in the private sector where relevant employers try to justify these unfair labour practices by attributing such discriminatory practices to the following among others: the excuse that, some workers used to negotiate their salaries packages before signing up employment contracts; the claim by relevant employers that they pay for skills and/or competences which individual workers possess; the claim by employers that, their pay / salaries are performance based yet some of such employers do not even proper Performance Management Systems in place; etc.
d) Victimization of workers who report cases to the Commission: Many disgruntled workers, are intimidated and in some cases victimized by their employers when they report violations of the provisions of the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 1998 (Act No. 29 of 1998) to the Employment Equity Commission ultimately leading to resignations which can be construed as constructive dismissals in many instances.
e) Employers avoiding compliance obligation: Many employers are, despite having attained the relevant employer’s status (i.e. having 25 or more employees) still failing to give notice to the Commission in order to start submitting affirmative action reports, which the Commission can use to monitor the implementation of affirmative action at their workplaces. In some instances, some employers simply reduces their workforce/s or split their companies into two or more smaller companies in order to fall below the 25 employee/s threshold – thus avoiding compliance obligation. This exposes workers from the designated groups who are employed by such employers to grave discriminatory practices.
It is because of the negative attitudes and/or behaviors of some relevant employers that, the following ugly trends are still common in a country that, gained its independence 29 years ago and introduced an Affirmative Action programme that has been in existence for 20 years now. These negative trends are as follows:
a) Although Persons in designated groups i.e. the racially disadvantaged, women and persons with disabilities, currently comprises about 97% of employees across all economic sectors employed by relevant employers, black employees only occupies about 63% of managerial positions. This is despite the fact that, black employees comprises about 95% of the workforce covered.
b) Only about 40% of women are in managerial positions.
c) Of serious concern is the fact that, only about 0, 6% of managers were persons with disabilities.
d) The apparent under representation of persons with disabilities at almost every level of employment, currently standing at 0, 4%.
The Ministry in general and the Commission in particular is hard at work in order to mitigate or reverse most (if not all) the impediments (including those cited above) by doing the following:
a) Intensifying its stakeholder engagement, workplace visits and/or inspections, review visits, etc. in order to, enhance compliance.
b) Reviewing the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 1998 (Act No. 29 of 1998) in order to close all flaws which are negatively affecting the Commission’s oversight function of monitoring the proper implementation of affirmative action in the workplace. The current proposal will, among others, encompass, a provision on “equal pay for work of equal value”.
In addition, The Ministry has wide-ranging functions aimed at ensuring harmonious labour relations. These functions range from labour inspections, employment creation, employment equity, labour litigation, amongst others. Labour Commissioner’ Office (OLC) remains the central institution for labour disputes litigation and settlement through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes, namely conciliation and arbitration. The Office acts as registrar for registration of industrial organizations and collects statistics on industrial actions. Its actions contribute to the overall theme of harmonious labour relations in ensuing social justice at the workplace.
The achievements and challenges since the beginning of 2019 provides a good indication of how successful the Ministry was in achieving its aims and objectives.
Achievements
a) The OLC recorded an increase of labour disputes reported totalling 1358 for the three months. Conciliation of disputes remains by far the most preferred method of resolving disputes reported with an overall 76% success rate. Successful arbitration of disputes accounts for the remaining 24%.
b) The Office also collected up-to-date statistics on retrenchments as the Labour Act, 2007 requires employers to notify the Labour Commissioner thereof. It is recorded that 514 employees from 65 companies, mainly from the construction, wholesale and retail industries, recording 172 and 122 being retrenched, respectively.
c) The Office monitors industrial actions and collects statistics on illegal/ unprotected and legal/ protected industrial action. Due to increased awareness of their rights and despite difficult economic times, no incidences of industrial action were recorded during the said quarter.
d) The Labour Act, 2007 provides for basic employment conditions and requirements to comply with in accordance with the employment. In ensuring compliance with the legal provisions, such as salary payments; overtime; leave days; severance payments, etc, the Labour Inspectorate recovered an amount of N$766, 290, 00.
e) In respect of occupational safety and health at the workplace, a disappointing scenario is playing out as the recorded accidents at workplaces increased as compared to previous quarters. Six (6) accidents were recorded in this quarter alone.
Challenges:
a) Critical to effective dispute settlement requires excellent understanding of the statutorily prescribed ADR processes by social partners, applicants and respondents. It has been determined that despite a reasonable knowledge of the ADR processes, certain stakeholders lacks in-depth understanding thereof. An example in point is the illegal strike of the fishermen in October 2016 and the subsequent referrals and re-referrals of disputes afterwards.
b) The ADR processes are plaque with undue delays in resolving the disputes expeditiously. Many of the delays are a result of structural challenges, including over-judicializing processes by legal practitioners. A further structural impediment is the absence of the power to condone late referrals of disputes.
c) In respect of statistics on industrial action, a compulsory system of notifying the Labour Commissioner in cases of such industrial actions are necessary. This will ensure up-to-date statistics on strikes, lock-outs, etc.
d) The number and qualifications of arbitrators are further challenges experienced as this causes delays in conducting hearings and timeous issuance of well-researched and reasoned awards.
Main Strategies to address Challenges:
a) Continued education and awareness creation for all stakeholders remain critical in ensuring buy-in and creating an in-depth understanding of the Labour Act and the ADR Processes.
b) Legislative review and update that are underway will be informed about the structural impediments to the ADR system in order to effectively address these challenges.
As for employment equity is reflected in the affirmative action reports of employers submitted, 375 Reports were reviewed covering about 73,072.00 employees. To ensure proper compliance, 18 cases were registered against employers who failed to comply with the Law.
As everyone is aware, unemployment in Namibia is at an unacceptable level, therefore, as we celebrate workers day today, we should not forget that one of the biggest challenges facing our country is high unemployment rate more especially among the youth. The results of the 2018 Labour force survey which were released recently by the Namibian Statistics Agency (NSA) indicated that unemployment in the country now stands 33.4% which is slight decrease of 0.6% points from 2016. The youth unemployment rate stands at 46.1%, shows an increase of 2.7 % point compared to 43.4% in 2016. This situation is cause of concern to our Government.
This situation is exacerbated by the prevailing economic hardships that we are experiencing in our country. Many businesses have restored to retrenchments in order to keep afloat. Some companies have even closed down leaving many of our citizens without jobs.
I call upon employers and workers during this hardship time to work together in order to turnaround the negative effects of this economic situation on our people.
Our Government will ensure that employment creation is mainstreamed in all our developmental plans. Our Ministry in collaboration with the ILO has developed the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP).
The priorities identified in this programme is a result of a thorough consultation process that involved Employees and Workers (Union). The purpose of this programme is to create decent and sustainable employment for our people. The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation is planning to introduce what we will call “Employment Impact Assessment Approach”, meaning budget of developmental plans should be evaluated based on their potential to create employment. This will ensure that employment creation is maximized in all sections of our economy.
Most importantly, the Ministry’s records since the introduction of the minimum wage shows that the working conditions of farm workers has improved in some areas as a result of the introduction of the Minimum Wages. There were some farm workers who used to be paid far below than the current minimum wage. The introduction of minimum wage also created certainty and strengthen social dialogue.
The Ministry conducted inspections in Agriculture Sector during July and August 2018 as part of its Routine Inspections Plan and it was established that compliance level has improved in some areas. In 2018 Labour Inspectors conducted 323 Agriculture inspections countrywide in Commercial and Cattle posts. The total compliance level was 68% (which is 221 employers) while non-compliance was 28% (90 employers).
With regard to corruption Government has come up with the legal frame for the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission to deal with corruption cases in the country.
It is in light of this that the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation would like to applaud the NUNW and its affiliates for creating this opportunity in commemoration of the May Day.
I therefore, would like to encourage NUNW and its affiliates members in particular in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz, present here today to fulfill objectives of the Federation as well as encourage the workers to know the history of the NUNW and its affiliates.
Last, but therefore not least, kindly, I urge the workers not to be misled by brief case unions as they are busy misleading the workers and results into losing of their jobs at the end of the day. I therefore would like to encourage you comrade workers, colleagues and compatriots to keep up the good spirit and continue to stand solid together and in unity of purpose.

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