The solution to the hazardous transportation of workers on the backs of trucks is to have the transportation cost included as provision in the public procurement system, says the Construction Industries Federation (CIF). The federation is advocating that each construction tenders, private and public, should reflect transportation costs for all construction contractors to be able to afford safe transportation for their workers.
Government and law enforcement has condemned transporting workers on the backs of trucks as just this week Tuesday, 24 people were injured when another goods truck overturned on Windhoek’s Western Bypass.
“It is therefore critically important that the availability of and access to public transport is further improved. Another consideration would be that tender requirements of all public projects would explicitly address the safe transfer of workers between their homes and their workplace. This would ensure that all companies tendering for government projects would operate from a level playing field,” said Bärbel Kirchner, Consulting General Manager at CIF.
According to Kirchner companies in the construction sector provide transport to their employees on a voluntary basis. “Generally, transportation to work is the personal responsibility of employees. However, this remains difficult due to insufficient public transport, in terms of availability and accessibility. This in turn can affect the productivity of not only the construction industry, but also other sectors within our economy. The construction sector in particular can be affected by this, as often construction sites are in more remote areas,” explained Kirchner.
“Irrespective of whether or not employers are required to provide transport for their employees, it is important that the transport of workers is safe. However, it is not possible for companies in the construction sector to acquire mini buses, economically it would simply not be feasible,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the National Union of Namibian Workers, Job Muniaro, told New Era that transporting workers on the backs of trucks is too risky as human beings are not supposed to be transported in this way. “What are these trucks being used for during the day? Are they cleaned before transporting workers or are the workers exposed to hazardous materials? Also, these workers are exposed to natural elements such as cold or rain. Some trucks have been modified to safely transport people and this is more acceptable,” said Muniaro.
Also weighing in on the discussion, spokesperson for the City of Windhoek’s Police Department, Assistant Superintendent Cillie Auala, remarked that the City Police has engaged operations targeting all trucks transporting workers. The Government Gazette of March 2001, states that a person may not operate a goods vehicle conveying persons on a public road unless it is enclosed to a height of at least 350 millimetres above surface when seated or 900 millimetres when standing. While transgression does not carry a penalty clause of its own, violators could face charges in accordance with municipal traffic regulations. According Auala penalties within the Windhoek area range from N$1000 to N$4000. She added that regulations for the transportation of workers are being promulgated and the process is being finalised. “It is a public safety issue and it is up to all stakeholders to be involved…It’s just unsafe as those compartments are meant for goods and not for people,” added Auala.