Construction workers lament unsafe work environment

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Oshakati – About 80 employees from various construction sites in Outapi in Omusati Region last week took to protesting against poor working conditions in their town, which according to them resulted in the death of three co-workers .

The group led by the secretary general of the Namibian Building Workers Union (NBWU), Victor Hamunyela, handed a petition to the Omusati Regional Council and the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation demanding a conducive working environment.

They also want fair compensation and the dismissal of all labour inspectors in Outapi. They accuse them of not performing their duties to ensure a safe work environment.

“During April on a construction site in Outapi two of our colleagues at Tona Trading cc, Suarna David and Silas Nafuka, died in the course of their duties. During the month of May in the same town our colleague at Ampoule Construction cc, Elian Ndeshipanda Joas, died in cold blood. Some more colleagues are fighting for their lives,” said Hamunyela

Hamunyela claims that based on observations at the scenes of the accidents employees were not provided with the prerequisite safety wear.

Hamunyela maintained that the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation’s inspectorate division has the duty to enforce the provisions of the labour law, and promote compliance with relevant national legislation. It also has to expose loopholes or abuse and non- compliance by employers in the construction sector, he added.

“Such service was supposed to be provided through the process of labour inspections at workplaces, however our people continue to die like flies. Honorable Minister, Governor, this provisions of the statutes were not complied with. The inspectors have failed the nation, ” he said

Hamunyela feels it is every employer’s responsibility to ensure the conditions of employment are safe and there are no major health risks for workers.

He thus demanded that the employers be fined for not complying with the law, which could result in more loss of lives.

He said employers should be held liable for the expenses of the children of the deceased builders for the period of their childhood until they turn 21.

According to Hamuyela, Tona Trading cc, a company that belongs to the prime minister’s husband, Tona Amadhila, and Amupolo Construction cc, which belongs to a local businessman, should be made examples of to avoid a repeat of similar unnecessary deaths.

Amunyela further called on the labour ministry to dismiss labour inspectors that fail to carry out their duties “as their stay will mean tolerating the dying of innocent workers while they are paid for doing nothing.”

by Helvy Shaanika

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