Bold intervention needed in fishermen’s strike

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Like the Affirmative Repositioning movement earlier this year, another grassroots movement – a product of institutions not doing their work fairly – is busy shaping up.

I am referring to the striking fisheries workers. President Hage Geingob had to intervene for reasons explained below. The ministry of labour’s inspectorate of labour services has for nearly a decade not provided sustainable protection for all employees at their workplaces and does not enforce fair labour relations, as required by the Labour Act of 2007.

The current situation could have been avoided if the process was supervised and controlled in the spirit of “tripartitism ” – involving representatives of the ministry, the unions and employers. However, this does not function in Namibia for a number of reasons.

Firstly, in my personal experiences the ministry ignored throughout the years the principles of the Public Service Charter provisions, like quality of service, transparency, information and accessibility. The detailed findings and facts to that were reported by the undersigned to the offices of the ombudsman and the prime minister at the times, but no action was taken.

Employees today don`t trust the directorate of labour services in general. They feel betrayed by labour inspectors, who are often suspected of siding with employers and who are not guided by any code of conduct.

The more than 40 fragmented and mostly cash-strapped workers’ unions represent less than 20% of employees and have not at any stage played a significant role in representing employees with their grievances in tripartitism, because the ministry dominates the proceedings.

Also, the representatives of the employers’ organisations are left with no real counterparts in tripartitism. The striking fishermen with their substantial grievances need our support.

Uwe Rathmann

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