Parliament divided over minimum domestic wage

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By Mathias Haufiku

WINDHOEK – Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Doreen Sioka yesterday took issue with several cabinet ministers who are opposed to the proposed minimum wage of N$1 218 for domestic workers, saying they should have objected at cabinet level.

Ministers Charles Namoloh (regional and local government) and Rosalia Nghidinwa (gender) are among those opposed to the proposed minimum, along with outgoing defence deputy minister Petrus Ilonga.

Sioka was responding to a myriad of concerns raised on Tuesday by MPs who questioned the new minimum wage for domestic workers.
“I am surprised that there are a few members of the Cabinet Committee on Lands and Social Issues who appear to either question the wisdom of Cabinet’s decision or find it hard to adapt to change,” charged a visibly irate Sioka.

Sioka said some of those cabinet ministers wanting the new minimum wage were present in Cabinet when the Wage Order was approved but they did not say anything but now that they are in parliament they want to question it.

Sioka also challenged those MPs who have reached the age of 60 whom she claims have taken advantage of the N$600 social pension for the elderly.

“Surely you could use this amount and top it up to pay a decent salary to your domestic worker!” she said.

To ministers Nghidinwa and Namoloh and deputy minister Ilonga who proposed a lower minimum wage, Sioka said: “I can only say that these amounts were arrived at after extensive consultations and research by the Wages Commission, which includes experts and representatives of Namibian workers and employers.”

Sioka said setting minimum wages according to the incomes of employers is impractical because it is tantamount to means testing of employers.

“Government is not prepared to introduce a minimum wage that will perpetuate the poverty of the working poor, “she said.
Some ministers also opposed the proposal that domestic workers receive visitors at the homes of their employers, to which Sioka replied: “The Wage Order provides that live-in employees be entitled to receive visitors at reasonable intervals and for a reasonable period of time in consultation with the employer.”

She said employers cannot deny visitors, but can mutually negotiate acceptable arrangements for visits.
The 2013 Labour Force Survey indicates that there are approximately 46 000 domestic workers in the country.

About 32 600 of the total domestic workers are women, while 12 000 of the country’s domestic workers are employed on farms.
The survey also indicated that about 30 000 domestic workers earn less than N $1 000 and that most domestic workers on average earn N$600 per month.

As from April 1 2015, the minimum wage for domestic workers will be N$1 218 for a full-time domestic worker; N$281.09 per week; N$56.21 per day; N$7.02 per hour; N$10.53 per hour for overtime and N$14.04 per hour on Sundays.

In April 2016, the minimum wage shall be increased to an amount equivalent to the increase in the consumer price index.

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