Ramatex Labour Strike – When Will We Ever Learn?

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The recent endeavour by the employees of Ramatex, in conjunction with their affiliated unions, to ‘Down Tools’ is a matter of grave concern for all Namibians. One can only conjecture as to whether these brothers and sisters of ours have any idea about the consequences of what they are doing. At the outset, let’s consider this issue about ‘Exploitation of Labour’ by these foreign businessmen. I believe it’s high time we started accepting certain fundamental truths about ourselves as a nation. We happen to be a developing nation, with a vast majority of the populace hovering around the poverty line. The main reason we need these foreign businessmen to invest in our country is not because of any ‘Brotherly Love’ or any such thing, but fundamentally because we don’t have the necessary capital, either financially or technically, to invest in our country. If we had those kinds of resources, we’d be busy sitting in one of those G8 meetings and expressing sympathy for people around the developing world rather than sitting at home and pondering about where the next meal is coming from? So we do need foreign investment to keep our personal budgets in good health. Now, there are plenty of foreign investors who are ready to invest in our country. However, you’ve got to bear in mind one pertinent factor: these foreign investors are not here for charity. They are here to make money, and if that bothers you then please bear in mind that we’re not the only developing country in the world. These investors, if regularly piqued, will readily choose to invest their valuable funds in some other developing and more malleable country. Look. It’s a pretty cruel world out there and beggars simply cannot be choosers. Presently, we’re at a disadvantage due to the non-availability of adequate financial and technical resources. So there will be a certain degree of exploitation, and we won’t be the only country to have undergone such treatment. Take, for example, countries such as Brazil, China, India, etc. These countries were also in a similar position to us. They too were exploited by foreign and other investors eager to make big money. Nevertheless, these countries, rather than confront these investors head-on, opted for a more sagacious approach. Using the funds of these investors, the people of these countries chose to hone their technical and other skills, thus making themselves indispensable to all investors. As a result of this, over a period of time, these countries presented a high quality workforce, thus attracting the attention of investors from around the globe. This in turn resulted in the drastic amelioration in their standard of living. Namibia seems to be going through a similar process. However, it seems like we’re more eager to throw out these investors rather than try to benefit from them. In the case of Ramatex, one has to concur that our labour force is being exploited. Given the current cost of living, minuscule wages will naturally lead to a great deal of overall discontentment. Nevertheless, this is where we have to get our priorities right. Due to the abysmally low wages, each Namibian worker may not be able to afford a banquet, but he can at least put a crust of bread on the table for himself and his family. However, downing tools and refusing to work will end up in the denial of even such a basic necessity to such a worker and his family. Should Ramatex choose to close operations in our country, the plight of the retrenched and unemployed labourers must be carefully considered. There is no doubt in the fact that our labour unions strive hard, in their laudable endeavour, to ensure that our labour force receives just and equitable remuneration. Nonetheless, they must remember that their primary objective is to ensure that these labourers stay employed. The life of any Namibian labourer cannot be gambled with, albeit this is precisely what our beloved unions are endeavouring by encouraging strikes and other disruptions at work which can result not only in the loss of pay or the Namibian employee, but also total unemployment on account of the respective businesses closing down. Look, I agree that self-respect is a very important quality to be embedded in any human being and the countenancing of such unfair acts by such foreign or other investors should, under normal circumstances, be reprehensible. However, these are not normal circumstances. There is too much at stake to contemplate any belligerent option like striking work. Yes, the labourers have the right to expostulate their grievances, but it has to be done in a calm and rational manner without losing track of our priorities. In this case, our fundamental priority is to ensure that our labourers continue to stay employed. The ‘calm and rational approach’ towards negotiating employee welfare with investors like Ramatex will, no doubt, be a long and painstaking process. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the overall economic scenario of our country, the labourers and the unions, as responsible citizens of this country, must stay at the negotiating table rather than opt for open confrontations which, in the long run, will definitely be detrimental to the economic health of our country. Namibia is still a very young country with a long way to go before achieving overall prosperity. There is definitely no dearth of grit and determination in the average Namibian. We’ve proved it by successfully thwarting the imperialist forces and attaining independence. We still require this grit and determination in facing challenges from various business investors in our country. However, unlike the battle for independence, which was rather belligerent and confrontationist, this battle has to be handled in a calm and tactful manner because, in this battle, there is no question of one party winning and the other losing. Either both parties win or both lose. There is no other way out. Hence the only option for all parties, in this regard, is to get back to the negotiating table and settle the problem in a calm and rational manner as this is the only path for the overall economic success of our country. Yours Sincerely, ASHOK IYER Phone: 081-129-0197 Address: House No: 110 Hibiscus Street, Ondangwa.