WINDHOEK – Government will not renege on its decision to enforce the minimum wage for domestic workers which comes into effect today, the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation said.
Deputy Minister Alpheus Muheua says the government will not make a U-turn, despite demands in some quarters to delay enforcement.
The Union for Institutional and Household Employees of Namibia (UIHENI) is among those opposed to the enforcment of the new law, citing lack of key considerations.
UIHENI believes the new law is not in favour of resolving the plight of domestic workers.
The government last year gazetted the law for the domestic workers’ minimum wage of N$1 218 per month (N$56.21 per day or N$281.09 per week), which comes into effect today.
Muheua said the government would not be dictated to by naysayers.
„We are a resposible government and will not be held hostage by irresponsible people,“ charged Muheua.
„The law is the law. Let them take us to court if they want, the only thing that can stop us is a court order, but as far as we are concerned the minimum wage will stay as it is and will be effective as of Wednesday this week [today],“ Muheua said earlier this week.
The wage order will be supported by the full force of the law and be enforceable in the same manner as the basic conditions of employment contained in the Labour Act of 2007, which already covers domestic workers. Furthermore, according to the new law, domestic workers will be paid N$10.53 per hour for overtime, and N$14.04 per hour for working on Sundays and during public holidays.
The new law has received the backing of the Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF).
NEF secretary general Tim Parkhouse said in some instances N$1 218 might be considered low, but there are thousands of domestic workers for whom this would mean a significant increase.
„We do not support the claim for N$3 500. This would certainly lead to redundancies overnight,“ he says.
He urged trade unions to be reasonable in their demands, failure of which could result in increased unemployment.
„In this case they must not forget the transport being extra plus that in a year‘s time it will be increased by the CPI + 5 percent and the following year it will be totally reviewed,“ he added.
He says in 2012 the NEF carried out a survey that found there appeared to be a bias around wages paid.
„In urban areas such as Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Otjiwarongo, Oshakati there appeared to be a tendency to pay higher wages, but conversely there were many in rural areas paying very low wages,“ he says.
Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) director, Dr Michael Akuupa, said government has created a legal space through which unions can express themselves and present demands.
„In my opinion the rate is not so much an issue but the space of deliberations that is created by government as was recommended by the wage commission,“ he added.
About 32 600 domestic workers in the country are women, with 12 000 of the total workforce employed on farms.
A survey carried out in 2012 revealed that about 30 000 domestic workers earn less than N$1 000 and that most domestic workers on average earn N$600 per month.