Query: What is the use of having a Ministry of Labour in this country? Since 21 March 1990 until today this Ministry has done nothing. Namibian workers are still suffering colonial-style labour conditions. The young workers are particularly suffering because of employers who are exploiting their desperation to work by offering salaries way below the living wage.
Response: The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation exists to provide labour relations, employment and social protection services as per the Namibian Constitution. While everybody is entitled to their own opinions, it is imperative for the public to avoid making assumptions that may lead to individualised judgement based on uniformed mind.
With respect to the question, this Ministry would like to reiterate that the regular inspections that it carries throughout the country are to ensure compliance with labour laws. The compliance of these laws depends on employers and employees’ relationships at the workplace. However, those who are found to be on the other side of the law are always being dealt with as provided for by the law. The Ministry has been conducting public engagements in an effort to educate both the employers and employers on the provision of the labour laws.
However, it is important to indicate at this juncture that little interest has been noted from the public in this regard until someone finds himself/herself/itself in a different situation.
Employees from all walks of life have the right to freedom of association as per the Namibian Constitution, International Labour Standards and the Labour Act. This simply means, any employee, out of his/her own free will can join Trade Unions of his/her choice. These Trade Unions are the ones that can assist their members to bargain with the employers, provided they represent the workforce at a given company. Without the most representatives, Trade Unions and employees will not be in a position to properly bargain collectively with the employer.
In terms of offered salaries below living wage, this Ministry advocates decent work with decent salaries. It was previously indicated on this platform as to how different minimum wages are being set in different sectors of the economy. It is a common cause that the Minister responsible for labour has set up the Wage Order for Domestic Workers as it was one of the sectors where lower salaries were previously evident. Among other visible activities that this Ministry performs include regular workplace inspections, dispute resolutions through conciliations and arbitration, registration and placement of job seekers. Therefore, stating that the Ministry has done nothing is incorrect and misleading, hence devoid of any truth and credibility to say the least.
In addition, the Minister in his Performance Agreement has indicated that he will set up a National Minimum Wage. The National Minimum Wage will help to ensure that employees across all sectors of the economy are paid a decent living wage. This process has begun but it is expected to take some time to conclude.
The author is requested to provide this Ministry with concrete evidence of workers being exploited in order for actions to be taken against the perpetrators. Hiding behind being anonymous or non-disclosure is in itself a futile exercise.
Finally, sound labour relations are a collective effort that this Ministry cannot achieve alone. Therefore, employers and employees must cultivate a culture of respecting and complying with labour laws willingly, in achieving one common goal, that of good labour practices and decent work.
• Maria N. Hedimbi , Chief Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org