The general secretary of the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU), Justina Jonas, has called for greater safety for construction workers. Jonas was reacting to last week’s incident in which two buses transporting workers of Salini SpA crashed.
About 80 people were involved in the accident. Jonas said safety is a core principle of MANWU and a strategic and vital focus of the union work: “The safety challenges our industry faces call for bold new actions if we are to reverse the current trends and have a positive impact on reducing fatalities, injuries and accidents.”
She said the union wishes to raise the issue of safety at work, especially regarding the transport of staff to and from the workplace. According to her, recklessness and an attitude of carelessness are at the heart of many avoidable accidents.
She said Salini and all other construction firms in Namibia must safeguard their employees, just as they do with production at work. “Workers are not machinery, but people and their safety must be a priority at all times,” she said.
Jonas also used the opportunity to call for an end on the transportation of workers in open trucks. “The practice of transporting workers in open trucks still continues, although it has led to deaths in the past and is no longer allowed,” he said.
“We’re calling for the very strict enforcement of the rules and for severe punishments of those employers who still do not comply,” she emphasised.
She commended employers who provide decent transport, such as buses, to their employees and said MANWU welcomes the recent statement of the Windhoek City Police that the provisions for the transport of workers will be strictly enforced, especially amongst the construction and security companies.
“As scheduled in our strategic plan, we will submit a list of all construction companies transporting workers in open trucks to the authorities,” she said. Jonas says they have already compiled the list and will forward it to the authorities very soon.
“We call on all other towns and on the Namibian Police in general to follow the example of the Windhoek City police.”
She said the union will not accept that workers’ health and lives are put at risk because some employers want to cut corners and refuse to provide decent transport.