Employers take on Geingob over retrenchments
01 June 2020 | Justice
The Namibia Employers Federation (NEF) on Friday said President Hage Geingob had no business replacing the existing labour law with a proclamation which prohibits retrenchments due to the coronavirus impact.
The president, health and labour ministries and attorney-general's office were represented by Jean Marais and Sisa Namandje. The employers have dragged government to court over regulations that include a ban on retrenchments until at least 28 days after the national coronavirus lockdown ends. Arguing on behalf of the employers, Raymond Heathcote said the labour law gives workers who felt they were unfairly dismissed the opportunity to approach the court on an urgent basis.
“People can go to court, the High Court, if they were fired in bunches. The laws remain, the president does not have free power to do as he pleases. Of course, he can regulate, but he cannot suspend laws,” he said.
Spend energy elsewhere
Heathcote added that instead of tinkering with laws, Geingob should have spent his energy on addressing the pandemic, which has given rise to the emergency.
“What they then did on the advice of the directorate of labour was to start catering for complaints which were not proven of people who were treated unfairly and unfairly. If that was true, why suspend the Labour Act? That is irrational,” Heathcote said. High Court judge Shafimana Uietele said it was the coronavirus that has given rise to the state of emergency.
Heathcote responded that workers stayed home because of the president's proclamation and not because of the outbreak.
“The emergency was declared as a result of the coronavirus and the uncertainties – whether it was contagious, we did not know how far it has gone.
“That is what has given rise to this emergency,” Heathcote said.
He asked the judge how the proclamation for a state of emergency would overcome the emergency created by this health crisis.
The State moved that the president is empowered by the Namibian Constitution and the Disaster Management Act to determine and implement disaster measures in a state of disaster.
According to them, a disaster is after all a sudden and unexpected catastrophe and it does not afford the privilege of an armchair assessment.
“There can be no doubt that the obvious purpose behind the regulations was, ultimately, to prevent the spread of the disease. That was its primary objective or purpose,” the State moved.