WINDHOEK - The National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) has welcomed the new definition of labour hire under section 128 of the Labour Act, which it said “now erases all ambiguities associated with the presence or infusion of labour hire in the employment relationship.”
NUNW secretary general, Evalistus Kaaronda, said this at a press conference yesterday in response to the new regulations, which under the Labour Amendment Act of 2012, specify that any casual worker hired from a labour hire agency, becomes an employee of the hiring company.
Such a worker will enjoy the same rights as other permanently employed workers and should be protected from unfair dismissal and may join a trade union. The amended labour law also requires that such a worker be hired on the same terms and conditions as permanent employees. Further to this, the Act introduced a presumption of indefinite employment for any worker, unless the company can justify a fixed term contract.
The clause does not affect job placement agencies since their service matches job hunters with employers without the agency becoming “a party to the employment relationship that may arise”.
“We also welcome the presumption that an employee is hired for an indefinite duration if there are no rebuttals by way of justification by the employer as to the short-term nature of the contract,” said the NUNW in a media release.
Kaaronda said that in the view of the union federation, the amendment took away much of the abuse suffered by workers across all industries where labour hire is still the order of the day.
“We are mindful of the fact that there are unscrupulous employers out there who will take advantage of the current pandemonium created by the misinformation drive of the Namibia Employers Federation (NEF) to lay off workers just to “teach Government and trade unions a lesson”, warned Kaaronda, who also called on NEF and its members to behave like “responsible citizens.”
The newly-amended Labour Act has sparked intense debate among businesses and labour-hire companies that say it will have adverse effects on employment since many casual workers are already said to have lost their jobs due to the new demands by the Act.
Africa Personnel Services (APS) is one such labour hire company that reportedly said since the new amendments were enforced, three-quarters of the companies that hired workers through them have already cancelled their contracts leading to massive layoffs said to number 7000 for APS alone.
APS previously won a court challenge after government banned labour hire, and reasoned that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court declared the banning of the labour-hire system unconstitutional after it found that an outright ban was an unreasonable infringement of the constitution’s protection of the right to practise any profession, or carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Edu Letu Consultants, another labour-hire company, has now applied for exemption under the new amendments, while APS’ application to block the implementation of the amended Labour Act will be heard in the Hight Court on August 13.
Kaaronda called on all workers to mobilize themselves and prepare for public protests against the legal challenge brought by NEF and its members over the amended section 128. The amended Labour Act came into effect on August 1.