Bosses hit back at Covid-19 retrenchment ban

27 April 2020 | Labour

ESTER KAMATI

WINDHOEK



Directives communicated by the ministry of labour have been disputed by the Namibia Employers' Association (NEA) and Namibia Employers' Federation (NEF).

The directives include a ban on retrenchments for 28 days after the Covid-19 lockdown period, which is supposed to end at midnight on 4 May.

To reduce wages and salaries, trade unions and/or employees' consent will be needed in writing. It is also prohibited to reduce people's compensation if they work a full day - whether in the office or at home. The Labour Act prohibits a reduction of more than 50% in employees' pay. Any reduction in benefits must, by law, be reflected by a reduction in working hours. In a letter to labour ministry executive director Bro-Mathew Shinguadja, the NEA objected to the directives and appealed to the ministry to reconsider the matter and not gazette the regulations. The NEA, which was not part of the discussions that took place from 24 March, supposedly did not respond to the ministry's invitation sent via email on 23 March.

In the letter, the NEA suggests that the ministry discuss the regulations with the Labour Advisory Council (LAC) prior to gazetting them. “The directives came as a result of consultations that we had among the trade union federations, the employers' federation and ourselves,” replied Shinguadja. He added that during the discussions there was general agreement on what the guidelines should look like.





“That's true, they (the NEA) were not consulted because an email sent on 23rd was unanswered.”

The Namibia Employers' Federation, National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna), who are all members of the LAC, were consulted, Shinguadja said.



Wording changed

The NEF's Daan Strauss said the wording of the directives was not the same as what was agreed upon during the meetings. He added that it came as a surprise that it was now unlawful to retrench.

“When we last met, the wording was quite different and there was no talk of making it retrospective from the first of April and for 28 days after the lockdown,” Strauss said.

He added that some employers had already negotiated retrenchment packages with their staff from the beginning of February and reached amicable agreements.

The NEF had requested a meeting with the ministry and was awaiting feedback, he said.

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