The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has warned that in recent years only a few employers have complied with laws pertaining to the safety and health of workers.
This, says Labour Minister Erkki Nghimtina, has resulted in an alarming number of workplace accidents. A record 26 fatalities were recorded over the past five years, of which 50 percent occurred in the construction sector alone.
Construction sites represent 34 percent of the total number of workplaces inspected for occupational safety and health compliance between 2012 and 2015.
“It is worrisome to note that only 13 percent of construction workplaces have documented evidence of training their workers on how to work safely to avoid workplace accidents. The time has now come for all employers in the construction industry to provide their employees with all the necessary safety clothes,” Nghimtina warned.
He was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Namibia Employers’ Federation (NEF) last week, where the minister urged the NEF to sensitise its members to deliberate on and address contemporary, but yet essential issues, such as health and safety at the workplace, housing, transport and medical cover, in an effort to eradicate poverty and provide social protection to their employees.
He further called on all employers to strictly obey transportation regulations. “The transportation of employees in open trucks must be ceased with immediate effect. Our ministry will work closely with the Ministry of Works and Transport, as well as law enforcement agencies, to ensure that the transportation of employees in open trucks has been stopped forthwith,” said Nghimtina.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has also started working on the revision of the current Labour Act. The revision is in line with the ministry’s strategic plan of revisiting and updating laws under its jurisdiction from time to time. Nghimtina, therefore, called on NEF to play its role by bringing employers’ views and contributions to the table for debate and consideration.
Nghimtina further said many local employers are not willing to look beyond wage payments to other benefits, such as housing, transport, education and training. He asked employers to seriously consider expanding their responsibilities towards employees from mere wage payments to a wider picture of employment and social benefits.
“For some time now we have been witnessing, with great concern, unfriendly labour relations in the country. There are employers that relegate their responsibilities to labour consultants. This approach in itself has not only strained the relationship between the employer and trade unions or employees, but indicates that employers do not take and treat employees with respect as partners.
“It is with no doubt that a number of labour disputes, such as unfair labour practices, unfair dismissals to organisational rights in the country are caused by this strained relationship. The NEF has a responsibility to inform its members about the benefits of meaningful and direct engagement with trade unions or employees, as opposed to contracting out labour consultants,” Nghimtina explained.
Nghimtina was the keynote speaker at the NEF’s AGM, while the guest speaker was former chief executive officer of the McCarthy Group Brandt Pretorius, who holds two honorary professorships and an honorary doctorate in business management. Pretorius’s presentation was titled ‘Success in a rapidly changing business environment’.