Some Say Labour Bill Could Have Been More Improved

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By Kuvee Kangueehi WINDHOEK The Labour Bill which was tabled in the National Assembly by the Minister of Labour and Social Services, Alpheus !Naruseb, was received with mixed feelings by the different stakeholders in the Labour industry. While many welcomed the proposed legislation, others felt that more could have been done to improve the Bill. New Era spoke to the Secretary-General of NUNW Evilastus Kaaronda, Director of Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) Herbert Jauch, and Tim Parkhouse from Namibia’s Employer’s Federation (NEF) about the impressions on the Bill. Kaaronda welcomed the Bill, saying it reflects the views and the contributions of the advisory council. He said NUNW is satisfied with the changes made to the Bill and hopes that the employers will see the Bill as a product of social consensus. The Secretary-General was, however, quick to point out that there are some shortcomings in the Bill and felt that the Bill should have totally abolished labour hire to put it in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO) declaration. He noted that although the Bill would introduce new changes that would protect the workers under the labour hire scheme, the workers are not fully protected. “I am happy that something has been done regarding labour hire, but the Bill does not adequately address the needs, and more needs to be done.” Kaaronda applauded the Bill with regard to maternity leave and, although the fringe benefits are still open to negotiations, the basic income of the employees will at least be guaranteed. He added that the Bill also makes provision for more women in the low-income bracket to benefit from the maternity leave. The Secretary-General complained that a critical issue which the Bill does not address is the tenure rights for the children of farm workers. He noted that during the review it was proposed that children of farm workers who have worked for more than ten years be given tenure rights in order to have job securities. He said the idea was that if such an agreement was in place, workers being evicted from farms would be reduced. Jauch said that overall, the proposed legislation is a good Bill and definitely an improvement on the current Labour Act especially in dispute resolutions. The researcher said the Bill introduces a conciliator and arbitrator appointed by the Labour Commissioner who will fast-track labour disputes such as unfair dismissals and wage disputes. He said that, under the current legislation, cases such as unfair dismissals are handled by the Labour Court which most of the time takes months or even years before making a ruling. He added that the decision by the arbitrator would be binding, just like with the Labour Court. Jauch noted further that if an arbitrator is appointed, as proposed by the new Bill, the issue could be resolved in less than a month. He noted that a conciliator would be instrumental in minimizing labour strikes because if the trade union and employer fail to reach a compromise, the conciliator would mediate for both parties to reach a compromise. He also noted that, under the current legislation, if the unions and the employer fail to reach an agreement, the union would give a 48-hour notice and then go on strike. Jauch added that the South African Labour Act is similar to the proposed Bill, and they have less strikes. He also applauded the bill for introducing compassionate leave and said it would become law for every employer, as it was the prerogative of the employer in the past to provide for such leave. He went on to state that more could have been done with regard to tenure rights for farm workers’ children. Tim Parkhouse from Namibia’s Employer’s Federation (NEF) said the Bill is a detailed report of 120 pages, and his organization is still studying the document. He noted, however, that in a nutshell the Bill addresses many problems and appears to be a big improvement. Parkhouse also welcomed the provisions made in the new Act, but noted that they are concerned with leave days as they are not conducive for employment creation. He noted that while the Bill proposes 20 days annually, in South Africa the annual leave days are only 15, and in Lesotho 12. He added that they support the Bill, and the organization will make an official statement after the Bill has been debated in parliament.