Builders' union appeals to State House

13 September 2019 | Labour

The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers' Union (Manwu) yesterday appealed to President Hage Geingob to step in and save the construction sector, which has been bleeding as a result of corruption and the ongoing economic crunch.

During a meeting at State House Manwu secretary Justina Jonas told the president that for the last three years many capital projects in the construction sector had yielded only short-term job contracts of one to three months. She also said these companies dismissed their workers unfairly, violated construction agreements, did not comply with health and safety standards and were a breeding ground of sexual harassment of working women.

Jonas also raised the issue of fly-by-night subcontractors out to make a quick buck from tenders for infrastructure development projects which they never complete.

According to her some subcontractors in joint ventures with transnational companies were bought out of the projects and as a result workers were exploited by transnational companies who have no understanding of the country's labour laws.

Jonas also told the president that the Public Procurement Act is a serious concern as it makes no provision for monitoring labour rights in the bidding process.

She went as far as questioning the employment conditions of construction workers who had built State House.

“We know many of us sitting in this beautiful boardroom have no idea what the construction workers went through to get this house done. Some got injured, some were unfairly dismissed, paid low wages, harassed because workers had no right to be organised because State House was declared a security project,” she said. Jonas asked whether government officials ever enquired about employment conditions when they officiated at inaugurations or groundbreaking ceremonies.

“Do they ask about how much workers are paid or even their working conditions before and after the projects? We may get one or none, Your Excellency,” said Jonas.

She told Namibian Sun that they had a very good meeting with the president and his ministers.

“From our side, we normally meet with several stakeholders and we had issues with the ministry of works with communication. We felt it was important to reach out to the president because of the [poor] communication between us and ministers. The ministry of works is our direct line ministry but we do not receive feedback when we raise issues or when we request a meeting,” she said.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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