By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The many labour and employment hiring companies in the country are largely responsible for the persistent insecurity of the more than 20ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000-strong temporary workforce in the country. This fact became clear yesterday during a lively discussion between representatives of eight Namibian unions that attended a two-day trade union workshop under the auspices of the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LARRi). “Presently Namibian temporary workers, which have grown from 2ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 in 1999 to 20ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 souls this year, are very sceptical about what trade unions can do for them because these unions primarily focus on permanently-appointed workers and ignore the many problems and hardships faced daily by temporary workers in the labour market. They deserve better, taking into account that they represent a larger portion of the workforce than some of the many unions have members,” said the director of LARRi, Herbert Jauch, in leading the discussion on union problems. According to him, unions are only focused on and tend to primarily fight for the rights of permanently-appointed workers. “Unfortunately, the unions have not yet extended their scope of bargaining and negotiating on behalf of all workers especially for temporary or contract workers who still suffer a raw deal in the labour market. The worsening situation for temporary workers will only be resolved if labour hire by the many companies is outlawed because they are presently causing many problems and exploit such workers represented in all economic sectors in the country,” Jauch charged at the workshop attended by representatives of trade unions such as NAPWU, LRS, MUN, NATAU, MUNW and NANTU. In his view, temporary workers are being taken for a ride in sub-contracting and temporarily hiring workers. “The whole labour system needs to be better regulated to ensure fairness in work and pay practices, also for casual workers. Presently, many such workers are being exploited under the Labour Act, which is too lenient. Most of these workers are being treated like pieces of paper and constantly remain in a state of insecurity due to contracting and labour-hiring companies exploiting them,” he said. Herbert Jauch further stated that labour hiring companies have mushroomed in the country, and their client companies abuse their powers when it comes to casual workers’ rights. “Both these entities play a cat-and-mouse game with temporary workers. They pass on the buck for labour problems from one to the other, instead of accepting collective liability. Such workers are considered by companies to be independent contractors, but they are not remunerated accordingly, just the N$20 daily or hourly wage. This is but one gimmick to escape their social responsibilities towards such workers,” he asserted. Jauch suggested that trade unions should work towards reversing the present treatment of temporary workers to the benefit of the whole country. “The present situation allows for casual workers to be hired and fired at will, whereas permanently-appointed workers cannot be summarily dismissed or fired from their jobs by labour-hiring companies that undermine them. The irony is that the Labour Act is silent on these matters and actually allows the abuse of workers to continue. The law must, as a matter of urgency, be tightened to prevent further abuse of employees,” he suggested. Far-reaching resolutions with regard to the plight of casual workers are expected to be taken by the workshop, for implementation by the unions.
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