Govt probes claims of ‘racial’ retrenchments

16 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK

The ministry of labour is investigating claims that some companies plan on retrenching workers on the basis of their skin colour, as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on the economy.

Labour executive director Bro-Matthew Shinguadja confirmed the ministry is investigating allegations that a number of white-owned companies have committed themselves to retrenching their black staff first and save their white workers, the labour ministry confirmed.

Two such incidents have been reported to the ministry and are being investigated, Shinguadja said.

“The other issue is about a company in Oshakati that does not want to apply for stimulus packages and wage support such as one introduced by the Social Security Commission. Apparently management or the owner said they do not want to do that because that money is for blacks. What does it mean? It gives you an impression that only the wages of black people were affected and others are still okay and content. It is worrying,” he said.

Shinguadja said the police have been alerted to collect evidence.

‘Govt is lax’

Meanwhile, Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA) secretary-general Mahongora Kavihuha said government is lax when it comes to addressing the issue, which is threatening to get ‘out of hand’.

According to him, this conduct is rampant amongst car dealerships as well as retail, construction and hospitality industries.

He added that black employees are mainly targeted because they are often unskilled and low-level workers, while white employees largely occupy senior and management positions.

“It has become a serious concern to us, and government is reluctant in dealing with these retrenchment processes. They have not even come up with a plan on how to deal with Covid-19-related labour disputes,” he said.

‘Save our kin’

Namibian Employers Federation (NEF) secretary-general Daan Strauss said he is not aware of these incidents but hastened to point out that this practice is not lawful.

“Employers are not allowed to do that and we would not advise that at all,” he said.

Ombudsman John Walters, said the majority of victims of racial discrimination do not report these incidents because they are afraid of losing their jobs.

“We do not have a mechanism in place that allows us to take some action against culprits. The old Racism Prohibition Act fell in disuse. The last conviction was a matter I prosecuted under the old Act,” he said.

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