Farmers eager for National Pension Fund

Farmers in Namibia have expressed their desire to have the National Pension Fund activated soonest following the disbandment of the Namibia Agricultural Retirement Fund.

13 June 2018 | Agriculture

Commercial farmers are waiting with bated breath for the establishment of the much-anticipated National Pension Fund.

This follows the disbandment of the Namibia Agricultural Retirement Fund (NARF), due to a lack of participation by members.

The Agricultural Employers’ Association (AEA) held its annual congress yesterday, which included an overview of the 2017/18 financial year by chairperson Hellmut Förtsch.

Förtsch said although most NARF claims have been paid, there are still funds that remain unclaimed by members.

According to him employers are now waiting on the National Pension Fund, which is yet been established by government. Indications are the fund will resort under the Social Security Commission (SSC) and will in all likelihood be operational by the middle of 2019.

According to Förtsch the AEA and the Namibia Employers’ Federation (NEF) require a fixed contribution pension fund, to which contributions can be made directly, in comparison to a fixed benefit fund, where funds lie in one central pool.

He further said there were no noteworthy labour disputes in the commercial agricultural sector during the 2017/18 financial year.

According to him this can be attributed to the fact that agricultural workers have been informed about Labour Act regulations.

Förtsch said their members are also regularly in contact with the association, in order to get advice on healthy labour practices.

He also elaborated on the adjustment of the minimum wage for farmworkers that was agreed to last year after successful negotiations and which came into effect on 1 November 2017. The minimum cash wage increased from N$3.70 to N$4.62 per hour or N$900 per month for a worker who works 45 hours per week.

For employers who do not give free rations, the ration allowance increased from N$400 to N$500 per month. The total minimum pay is thus N$1 400 per month.

According to Förtsch the minimum wage is currently valid for all members of worker and trade unions.

“Expanding thereof to the entire agricultural sector, however, requires the recognition of the Namibia Farm Workers Union (Nafwu) as the head negotiating agent of farmworkers.”

Due to the low representation of workers by Nafwu, this has not been accepted.

He also said the 2018 AEA wage survey is currently ongoing and the association is still waiting on the return of questionnaires by its members. The association has also decided to add the value of the electricity, water and firewood that a worker receives for free to remuneration packages.

Förtsch stressed the wage survey is a very important project, which will provide vital information to members, as well as the agriculture and labour sectors.

He urged members to take part in the survey.

IJG managing director Rene Olivier gave an overview of the Namibian economy at the congress.

He explained Namibia is going through a difficult economic cycle.

“It is normal to go through cycles and the country will get through this. It will, however, take us a bit longer, but our government is not that bankrupt.”

According to him it will take about two years for Namibia to recover and for the economy to grow in a positive direction. It is predicted that by 2020 Namibia will reach 3% annual economic growth.

ELLANIE SMIT

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