Charcoal industry sets minimum wage

The growing charcoal industry has decided to improve conditions of employment in order to meet international standards.

16 August 2018 | Labour

Namibian charcoal producers have agreed on a minimum wage for their workers, in addition to a basic standard of living conditions and the provision of free protective equipment and clothing.

Moreover, national industry standards are being finalised to comply with international standards that guide export to European markets.

The minimum wage for workers in the Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Otavi districts is equivalent to 41% of the selling price of unsifted charcoal and 43% of sifted charcoal, the Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA) confirmed this week.

Workers in the Otjiwarongo and Outjo districts are to be paid a minimum of 38% of the selling price for unsifted and 40% for sifted charcoal.

Workers in all other districts will be paid minimum wages in the same range, depending on the type of wood they work with, the Namibia Charcoal Association announced.

Moreover, the minimum wages include 1% of the selling price in lieu of overtime payment and 3% in lieu of paid leave.

The NCA further announced that charcoal workers required to live at their workplace would be provided with free housing, sanitation and water.

Charcoal workers must further be provided with free safety equipment and clothing at least once a year.

Employers must further provide an annual medical examination for each employee to ensure their occupational health and safety.

These measures were agreed on at the recent annual general meeting of the NCA at Otjiwarongo.

The association further announced that it supports the development of national industry standards, aligned to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which are expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

Meeting FSC standards is a requirement for exporting charcoal to European markets.

“This is important for Namibia because the nine export markets for its charcoal are largely based in Europe,” the NCA said.

A main aim is to produce FSC-certified charcoal and “to meet the requirements for a more socially, economically and ecologically sound product”.



More, more

Producers say it is likely the country could export up to 200 000 tonnes of charcoal by 2020, up from 160 000 tonnes two years ago.

Namibia is now ranked as the fifth largest charcoal exporter in the world and the largest charcoal exporter in southern Africa, the NCA said.

The industry has been earmarked for strategic development under the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) and is one of the ten industries singled out by the industrialisation, trade and SME development ministry's Growth at Home strategy.

The NCA said based on the current market demand and the industry's ability to respond to that demand, it is estimated that charcoal exports will increase by 40 000 tonnes over the next two years.

“This is good news for sustainable rangeland management in Namibia as the country's farmland is burdened by massive encroachment of bush species,” it said.

Bush encroachment reduces the carrying capacity of farmland, uses up valuable groundwater, reduces the biodiversity of species and creates challenges for predator conservation efforts.

The production of charcoal from invader bush serves several purposes: Combating bush encroachment, creating jobs and supplementing farm incomes.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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