Workers still treated like slaves: Basson

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Matheus Hamutenya

Keetmanshoop-//Kharas Regional Governor Lucia Basson says employers continue to treat Namibian workers like slaves even 27 years after Independence, which makes it imperative for government to have strong labour inspectors.

Basson made these remarks during her visit to the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation as part of her consultative meetings before she delivers her state of the region address later this year.

She said she was highly disturbed that after so many years of independence, many workers still lived and worked in terrible conditions, while their employers made huge profits.

It was therefore critically important that those employed and trusted to carry out the duties of labour inspectors should be strong characters.

They had to be able to carry out their duties diligently and efficiently in order to protect the rights of the Namibian workers, and to ensure Namibian workers did not suffer at the hands of their employers.

“For me, we are still in the apartheid world. Our people, especially farmworkers, work in terrible conditions, and so I don’t want weak labour inspectors who do not know what they are doing because it is up to us to help our workers,” she said.

Basson also said she was very disturbed by the complaints of worker abuse reported to her office.

These complaints mainly came from farmworkers, security guards and grape farm workers whose employers seemed not to respect the labour laws of the country, as they continued to mistreat workers.

She added that some employers did not pay their workers the minimum wage, and this meant workers remained poor.

Sometimes it seemed as though they did not receive any income, because they could not afford basic necessities such as clothing, and it was up to the labour inspectors to protect the workers by ensuring that employers adhere to the law.

“Our people cannot work for years and years but still remain poor, and there are some security companies that treat their workers like dogs, and I am very disappointed by that,” she said.

Basson also raised concerns about the employment of labour inspectors who were not fluent in one of the local languages in the region.

Local people with labour problems, who could not speak English, were in the past turned away because the labour inspectors could not understand them – something that should be seriously looked into, to avoid such incidents in future.

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