Employers not in favour of winter time

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek

The Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF) has revealed that about 80 percent of the companies it engaged indicated that their workers were in favour of returning to the GMT +2 hours all-year-round system, in line with South Africa and other countries in the region.

NEF recommends that Namibia keeps time with South African year-round GMT +2 hours and that the education ministry allows individual schools to elect to change their starting and closing hours according to local circumstances, but only after consultation with parents.

NEF secretary-general Tim Parkhouse revealed this yesterday during a public hearing organised by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Parliamentary Committee to hear people’s views on the Namibian Time Change Bill, 2017.

The Namibian Time Change Bill 2017 was tabled in the National Assembly by the Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, on February 22 this year. The Bill seeks to provide for the standard time of Namibia and repeal the Namibian Time Act of 1994. During the debates on the Bill, the House could not reach consensus and subsequently referred the Bill to the committee for further scrutiny and public consultation.

Parkhouse said NEF conducted a survey wherein its members and organisations were requested to express their preference either to remain with the current system of winter time, or revert to the previous system, GMT +2 hours, in line with South Africa and other countries all year round. He told the committee, which was chaired by its deputy,
Agnes Kafula, that many respondents commented on the fact that whatever they do with the clocks due to the change of seasons the hours of darkness in winter will be more, and therefore at times some people will be moving around before the sun rises or after it has set.

Additionally, he said, the majority of respondents mentioned the issue of children going to school in the dark in the mornings.

“This is undoubtedly an issue to consider, especially with the lesser privileged families and rural schools and of course the lesser privileged urban areas, where children walk to and from school,” he noted.

However, he said, it is lesser of an issue in some urban areas, in better off sections of the community, where children are transported by parents to school by car.
According to Parkhouse, this could possibly be resolved by allowing schools to vary the commencing or closing times as it suits the community.

The matter of parents returning from work in the dark, especially mothers, was also frequently raised in the discussions against having winter time as currently practised.
“The human being is a very adaptable object, and while most respondents prefer the GMT +2 system year round, they commented ‘but we have got used to the current time change arrangement’. Both arguments for and against winter time refer to accidents, traffic and pedestrians,” Parkhouse told MPs.

According to him, perhaps it would be useful if the Namibian Police Force could provide statistics or at least give advice as to what times of day are the “peak” periods for accidents.

Another frequent issue mentioned was that for five months employers are out of step with South Africa, which is Namibia’s main trading partner.

Employers feel that despite modern technology such as the internet, email and electronic banking, frequently telephonic communication still has to be done and electronic orders placed. Thus they say the total potential of trading hours lost daily does become a serious issue, according to Parkhouse.
This they stated equally applies to the South African Stock Exchange where four hours of trading can be lost daily.

They feel this is a serious issue with financial institutions due to the clearing time between South Africa and Namibia during “our winter time”.

In addition, employers expressed concern about the serious disruptions that occur with the opening and closing times of border posts with South Africa, and other neighbouring countries, which they say often cause unnecessary, costly and frustrating delays especially for tourists.

Further, they say that most sports activities take place after work and with the current system for five months of the year, excessive use has to be made of artificial lighting, causing a huge drain on electricity supply, which has extremely limited reserves.
Currently, Zambezi Region, Oranjemund and grape farms along the Orange River have decided to keep in line with South Africa, although the Act does not specifically allow exceptions.

The few stakeholders that are in favour of the current winter time said they see no problem with the lost business time with South Africa and that children can go to school in daylight.

Kafula applauded stakeholders for giving their views and promised that the committee would compile a report to be tabled in parliament for consideration.

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