By Kuvee Kangueehi
On the eve of Workers’ Day tomorrow, a senior researcher at the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRi), Herbert Jauch, says May Day in Namibia is set to lose its meaning unless its organisers raise current issues that affect workers.
Interest in May Day celebrations has gone down, while attendance dropped significantly after independence across the entire country.
Jauch says there is a serious danger that the day will soon be viewed as another public holiday. The challenge is now for labour movements to make the day relevant to the plight of ordinary workers, as well as broaden the campaign around issues that affect them.
He notes that there is nothing wrong with commemorating the day and remembering what happened in the past but the day must also map the way forward for the workers and address the workers’ struggle.
He says labour movements need to consult workers across the country and listen to their plight. Bringing the workers to a stadium to listen to the President is not good enough.
He says some of the current issues affecting workers in Namibia that labour organisations can address and possibly seek solutions for, are the closure of Ramatex and labour hire, which was outlawed with the passing of the new Labour Act.
“The labour movements need to consult the workers to make the day exciting. The day should be a platform where the workers themselves can raise their issues.”
He states that labour movements must provide solutions to the plight of the workers and cited an example in Venezuela where a labour organisation took over factories that were abandoned by investors and started running them.
Jauch says the incident in Venezuela could serve as an example for the labour movement in Namibia to address the Ramatex issue.
The main event of the May Day celebrations will take place in Walvis Bay, where President Hifikepunye Pohamba will deliver a keynote address.
The theme of the celebrations is: “Workers reject unemployment, retrenchments and demand permanent and decent jobs for all”.
The Secretary General of the National Union of Namibia Workers (NUNW), Evilastus Kaaronda, says this year’s focus is the economy and the creation of employment.
Kaaronda notes that the message the NUNW wants to deliver is that employment creation should be at the centre when the Government draws up its economic policies.
The secretary general says the economy has been growing very slowly, thus creating less employment opportunities.
He adds that the only economic sector, which made significant growth, is the mining sector but the sector did not create a lot of employment opportunities because it needs a lot of capital.
Kaaronda says the formal employment sector is declining, which is another indicator that the economy is not growing at the desired pace while the informal employment sector is growing. The growth in the informal sector is a result of the huge number of retrenched workers and generally low salaries.
He adds that retrenched workers usually open cuca shops and other small
businesses, while low-income workers also open informal businesses to supplement their income.
Kaaronda dismisses the notion that NUNW’s affiliation to the Swapo Party contributes to the low turnout at May Day events.
He says the affiliation of the labour movement to the ruling party is an advantage for the workers because the Swapo Party is not a homogenous party.
He says the Swapo Party consists of capitalist and nationalist members and the NUNW represents the wor-kers and the poor.