Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has called on Namibian workers to unite, saying if there is no unity in the workplace it will make it difficult for unions to address workers’ demands.
Addressing the recent May’ Day celebration at Lüderitz Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, called on employers to treat workers’ with dignity and to promote their well-being through fair employment conditions, including payment of a living wage, provision of medical aid, decent housing and paid leave, among other benefits.
The theme for this year’s Worker’s Day celebration was: ‘Workers demand effective protection on health and safety’. The theme is based on three important and interrelated aspects: strengthening respect for workers’ rights, increasing productivity and achieving sustainable development.
Nandi-Ndaitwah believes these components will have a direct impact on the development of the country through the achievement of the national development goals and Vision 2030 and she emphasized that employers should adhere to the contractual terms of employment at all times.
Nandi-Ndaitwah added that it has been observed that some employers classify significant portions of their labour force as casual or temporary employees, with the aim of avoiding the payment of benefits, such as medical aid, pension, as well as housing and transport allowances in order to cut costs.
“I understand some of these [casual and temporary] employees have worked for long as ten years. These discriminatory and exploitative practices are not acceptable in an independent Namibia and must be addressed with urgency. When I see workers transported in open trucks in rain or sun it takes me to the documentary we saw on labourers who worked in plantations centuries ago. Do we really need a law to tell us to be human? Please employers, let us treat our fellow human beings humanly, ” the deputy prime minister implored.
She further said she would like to see good work ethics becoming a norm in our country to bring about a situation where everyone, both in the public and the private sector would show pride in their work.
She further noted that for more than 100 years May Day has been observed internationally as an occasion to highlight the plight of workers and to demonstrate solidarity for workers’ struggle against exploitation and unfair labour practices.
“It is a source of pride that, our Constitution guarantees’ protection for the right and dignity of each and every Namibian worker. This includes the right of workers to join trade unions, as per Article 21 of the Namibian Constitution. Hence, we need to celebrate these achievements and ensure adherence to those laws,” Nandi-Ndaitwah stated.
She said the Constitution gives everyone the right to form and join any institution. She further said the country has trade unions, as well as employers’ associations and the government who are prepared to talk to each other to find common ground, or what is called in diplomacy a “win-win situation”.
It is necessary to ensure tripartite interaction in labour relations is strengthened to produce a “win-win” outcomes, she said, noting that there is no doubt that strong and well-organised trade unions will be in a position to advance the interests of their members within the tripartite alliance.
She further said government will continue to work with all stakeholders to promote and sustain harmonious and stable labour relations in the country and, as such, May Day celebrations can also be used as an occasion to map out strategies to conduct national programmes in the interest of the country and its people.
The deputy prime minister added that the government has declared war on poverty. The Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), launched recently by President Hage Geingob is key to that struggle and workers have to commit themselves to fast-tracking the implementation of Vision 2030.
“Therefore, on a day like this one, as Namibian workers, we need to ask ourselves where we stand in making our contribution to the national development agenda.”
She further emphasised that, “as we mark Worker’s Day, one of the biggest challenges facing our nation is, how to create an enabling environment to foster the creation of employment for our people, and for our emerging entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality.
“In this regard, all stakeholders must work together in order to find effective solutions and take our country forward.”
She also noted that unemployment remains a serious concern and that the country must work hard to address the problem, especially among women and the youth.
She urged employers and labour unions to communicate openly, bargain honestly and negotiate in good faith to avoid unnecessary industrial action.
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernard Esau was among those who attended the recent May Day celebrations in Lüderitz.