Farmworker struggles continue

Absenteeism, drugs and alcohol cause dismissals

20 December 2016 | Agriculture

The current status quo of farmworkers in Namibia appears to be a mixed bag of fortunes and misfortunes.

Over the past 14 years, the total remuneration package for farmworkers in Namibia has not even doubled, while some farmworkers on commercial farms in Namibia are still being underpaid, two years after the national minimum wage for farmworkers was implemented.

Further to this, alcohol abuse still remains a major concern amongst farmworkers and it is one of the biggest reasons for dismissals.

This was revealed in the latest survey that has been conducted on wages for farmworkers on commercial farms.

The survey is published every second year by the Agricultural Employers’ Association (AEA) to determine the average wages farmworkers receive on commercial farms.

According to the survey, out of the 3 497 employees represented a total of 57 employees (2.28%) received a cash wage below the minimum hourly rate of N$3.70 that came into force on 1 July 2014.

These workers were paid between N$2.02 and N$3.69 per hour.

The survey on the other hand notes that whereas the current minimum wage agreement is N$3.70, that on average, farmworkers in Namibia received N$6.90 in 2015/16.

The survey says that the average basic monthly monetary remuneration of permanent employees on commercial farms amounted to N$ 1 975.12, while the total remuneration package of permanent employees on commercial farms amounted to N$ 3 320.64, on average.

A remuneration package is made up of a cash wage, a cash allowance, dry rations, wet rations, other farm-produced foods (these all constitute the monetary remuneration or basic salary) as well as housing, livestock and free transport.

The total remuneration of farmworkers has increased by 9% since 2014, according to the survey.

However, it also indicates that the total remuneration packages of farmworkers have increased from N$1 211 since 2002 to N$3 320. This is a mere increase of N$2 109 over 14 years.

The statistics show that over the period of 2008 and 2010 the total remuneration of farmers was quite good with up to 22% and 24% in increases, but there was a steep fall in 2012, 2014 and 2016 when Namibia started to experience drought. The increases over those periods were respectively, 11%, 8% and 9%.

The total monthly remuneration packages of employees differ from region to region. In Omaheke and //Karas, the highest average remuneration packages were recorded at about N$3 450.

Just below them follows Khomas (N$3 357), Otjizondupa (N$3 291), Hardap (N$3 291) and Kunene (N$3 053).

The lowest average packages are Erongo (N$2 982) and Oshikoto (N$2 777).

Social issues

Drug and alcohol abuse among farmworkers has remained rampant.

According to the survey 40.87% of the farmers reported cases of alcohol and substance abuse among their employees. A total of 593 incidents of drug- and alcohol-related transgressions took place within the reporting period of the survey.

The survey further says that 23.81% of the total dismissals on farms were because of alcohol abuse. This figure increased from 16.8% from 2014.

It was also the second highest reason for dismissals with only being absent from work that was rated higher at 27%.

According to the survey there are on average a total of 7.6 farmworkers employed per commercial farm in Namibia in comparison to the 6.63 employed in 2014.

The Oshikoto and Otjizondjupa regions on average employ the largest number of workers with about nine and eight workers respectively while the Hardap and //Karas regions employ the least workers with about four workers on average.

According to the survey a total of 63.8% of all permanent employees in the survey have their dependents living on farms with them. This is an increase from the 62% in 2014.

The survey says that the average dependants per employee are 1.68 and this figure increased slightly from the 1.62 dependants per employee in the 2014 wage survey.

Respondents of the 2016 wage survey indicated that there are a total of 2 834 employee houses on their land where they conduct their farming activities. This brings the average number of houses to 6.16 per employer. The average size of these houses is 45.46m² with an average of 2.49 rooms per house.

It must be noted that the calculated total monthly pay package does not include bonuses, clothing, medicine, school- and hostel fees, pension and social security contributions as well as water and energy (wood/electricity) costs. These mentioned items are a cost to employers and form part of the employees’ benefits.

ELLANIE SMIT

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