Labour Issues to Get More Exposure

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Issues related to labour, such as unfair job practices, child labour and the occasional unrest involving workers disheartened with their bosses are now likely to receive more coverage from the media following a consultative workshop that took place yesterday. The consultative one-day workshop at a local hotel involved officials from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Ministry of Labour, the Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF) and senior representatives of local media houses. All delegates concurred that more needs to be done to enhance and to open up avenues of communication so that there is a better understanding of labour issues. Participants were further of the view that the media should be engaged in all spheres of issues related to labour and that this should be done often and not on an ad hoc basis. Yesterday’s round-table discussions will be followed up by a two-day workshop for journalists that will ponder various aspects of reporting on labour-related topics starting from this morning and concluding tomorrow at the same venue. It was further agreed that the media should become part of the task force dealing with the implementation of the new Labour Act whose revision was a protracted exercise. Addressing the round-table discussions attended by local editors, Alpheus !Naruseb the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare stressed the need for effective communication. According to him, the communication strategy aims to widely promote the effective application of the new Labour Act expected to become operational in July this year. “The Ministry (of Labour) and its social partners will aim to collaborate with the media in developing a human-interest approach to reporting the implementation of labour legislation,” the minister said. “Labour relations is a specialised field, and its significance to the economic and political development of any country is sometimes under-estimated. This may explain the infrequency of media coverage of labour issues,” he said during the opening session. In the same vein, he appealed to journalists “to examine this problem during the discussions, so that we can begin to reverse the situation”. Although the Ministry of Labour is tasked with implementing and enforcing the revised Labour Act, he admitted his ministry could not operate in isolation and thus the media should play a critical role in keeping the public informed about the new developments. Such collaborative efforts would contribute towards the implementation of the new Act, he stated. He pledged to explore ways to improve interaction with the media. The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ulitala Hiveluah said the revised Labour Act, that makes provision for a specialised labour court, would be implemented in phases before it becomes fully operational in July. Responding to a question, Davie Bosch from the ILO Child Labour Project in neighbouring South Africa said the exploitation of children exists even in affluent nations where it happens in the form of prostitution and pornography. Bosch said child labour negatively affects many children worldwide as well as in Namibia. To date, stakeholders in Namibia have identified on a preliminary basis the different forms of child labour, namely children being used by adults to commit crime, such as housebreaking, theft from vehicles and even stock theft. Another aspect of such labour involves households on some farms being threatened with eviction if these households’ children refuse to work when required or where they are trafficked for exploitative labour. Other delegates who made presentations at yesterday’s consultative workshop were Grahame Matthewson, the Chief Technical Advisor from an ILO affiliate, Improving Labour Systems in Southern Africa (ILSSA) and Tim Parkhouse the Secretary General of NEF.