Lay-off fears mount after landmark ruling

Government was left with a bloodied nose yesterday after a court ruling that paves the way for retrenchments in the name of Covid-19.

24 June 2020 | Labour



Fears are mounting over widespread Covid-19 retrenchments after the High Court declared regulations by the labour ministry, aimed at banning dismissals, salary cuts and forced leave during the lockdown period unconstitutional and invalid.

Ministry executive director Bro-Matthew Shingudja yesterday said it is too early to tell whether they will appeal the decision.

“We must read it through to see what the court has taken into account. We are used to these kinds of judgments. We have to study the judgement to see whether we will go to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Namibia Employers Federation, the Namibia Employers' Association and five private companies in the safari, aviation, transport and printing industry on 29 May brought the urgent application before court.

They also questioned President Hage Geingob's powers during an emergency under Article 26 (5) of the Namibia Constitution.


Labour expert Herbert Jauch described the judgement as a “smash in the face” of Namibian workers.

Jauch, who believes this will aggravate poor working conditions, said this is a disaster which will lead to a massive rise in poverty and inequality in Namibia.

“It is regrettable and will encourage employers to retrench workers at will. It shows how unprotected workers are in Namibia and it will strengthen the hand of employers,” he said.

Jauch emphasised that the court outcome will further embolden employers to lay off workers and leave workers with very little recourse.

“The Pick n Pay situation was symptomatic, they are operating in a sector that was not affected at all during this lockdown and yet we saw retrenchments from them,” he highlighted.

The retail giant recently announced that it will retrench 500 of its 1 931 employees in an effort to make the business sustainable. The announcement was made by PnP managing director Graeme Mouton who said the retrenchments were necessary because of the prolonged economic downturn and reduced consumer disposable income.

Just last week, the Construction Industry Federation's Barbel Kirchner announced that this sector has seen large-scale retrenchments with about half of the 60 000 workers employed in the formal and informal construction industry sent home. The country has also seen thousands of jobs lost in the mining and tourism sector, which has recorded more than 44 000 job losses.

The Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) said President Geingob must fire justice minister Yvonne Dausab and attorney-general Festus Mbandeka for “ill-advising” him.

According to Tucna president Mahongora Kavihua, the pair should be punished for not crafting water-tight regulations which would have stood the test of time in the High Court.

“We are calling to recall his justice minister and attorney-general and if he cannot, then he must step down himself for failing the workers. This judgement will now give employers a license to mistreat workers,” he said.

“This is a slap in the face of workers and has exposed this capitalist ideology. It is truly unfortunate for workers because now we will see how employers will start firing workers at will,” he said.

Necessary evil

Local economist Dr Omu Kakuhaja Matundu said retrenchments at this point will be a good thing for the sake of the economy, if done in good faith. He said he believes it is better to survive the economic storms at present and re-employ later when the economic tide is rising, instead of risking it all.

“Because how is it going to work out if you are saying keep them for two months, but in that time, you don't have any money to pay them or keep business afloat? It will be a very dangerous. But there is a possibility that employers may use Covid-19 as a leeway and scapegoat to lay off their workers,” he admitted.

[email protected]

Similar News


Lay-off fears mount after landmark ruling

1 week ago - 24 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKES WINDHOEKFears are mounting over widespread Covid-19 retrenchments after the High Court declared regulations by the labour ministry, aimed at banning dismissals, salary cuts...

Workers underpaid at Wu's housing project

2 weeks ago - 19 June 2020 | Labour

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDULabourers recruited by subcontractors building houses for prominent Chinese businesswoman Stina Wu are paid far below the minimum wage.At the site in Rundu's Kaisosi...

Pick n Pay to lay off 500

2 weeks ago - 19 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWindhoekPick n Pay Namibia yesterday announced that it will retrench 500 of its 1 931 employees in an effort to make the business sustainable.The...

Sardarov’s workers on a warpath

3 weeks ago - 16 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKA group of former farmworkers at Marula Game Lodge outside Windhoek, which belongs to Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov, are claiming unfair labour practices and...

Govt probes claims of ‘racial’ retrenchments

3 weeks ago - 16 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKThe ministry of labour is investigating claims that some companies plan on retrenching workers on the basis of their skin colour, as Covid-19 continues...

Over 120 lose jobs at Stina Wu’s project

1 month - 03 June 2020 | Labour

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDUAbout 120 people lost their jobs yesterday after a fallout between Chinese-born business magnate Stina Wu and a subcontractor that labour inspectors found to...

Fired writer's case reaches labour court

1 month - 20 May 2020 | Labour

OGONE TLHAGE WINDHOEK Former Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) freelance writer and columnist Vitalio Angula's dismissal case is due to be heard in the...

Retrenchment ban: Bosses backtrack on court battle

2 months ago - 30 April 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKThe Namibia Employer's Federation (NEF) has parked its plan to drag government to court over regulations that include a ban on retrenchments until at...

Bosses hit back at Covid-19 retrenchment ban

2 months ago - 27 April 2020 | Labour

ESTER KAMATIWINDHOEKDirectives communicated by the ministry of labour have been disputed by the Namibia Employers' Association (NEA) and Namibia Employers' Federation (NEF).The directives include a...

Social security for informal traders proposed

2 months ago - 22 April 2020 | Labour

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKThe Namibia Informal Traders and Shebeen Workers Union says there is now a clear need for its members to start benefiting from social safety...

Latest News

SPYL's Sikongo hands over seeds...

23 hours ago | Business

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught Namibia not to rely on other countries for imports of food, but instead produce its own food, as those countries...

Esau offers N$23m assets for...

23 hours ago | Crime

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEK Disgraced former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau yesterday denied that either he or his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi had in any way benefited from...

Swartbooi 'awakening sleeping lions'

23 hours ago | Politics

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEK The Namibia National Liberation Veterans Association (NNLVA) says Landless People's Movement (LPM) leader Bernardus Swartbooi is “awakening sleeping lions” by calling founding...

Walvis Bay prisoners in panic...

23 hours ago | Health

OTIS FINCK AND OGONE TLHAGEWalvis Bay/Windhoek An inmate at the Walvis Bay prison is deeply concerned about hygiene at the correctional facility, which employs 77...

Big Oil confronts possibility of...

23 hours ago | Business

JULIEN MIVIELLEAlthough crude prices have rebounded from coronavirus crisis lows, oil experts are starting to ask if the industry has crossed the Rubicon of peak...

Lifestyle audits will uncover rot

23 hours ago | Opinion

Is it any coincidence that Namibian politicians own so much wealth whose source not even arithmetic geniuses can yet establish?Is it just by sheer luck...

German restaurants still hungry for...

23 hours ago | Business

By FLORIAN CAZERESThere's no sign of the usual lunch crowd at Berlin's Zen Kitchen, with just a few scattered diners dotting its terrace despite the...

GBV victim camps at police...

23 hours ago | Police

ILENI NANDJATOONDANGWAA gender-based violence (GBV) victim camped at the Ondangwa police station this past weekend after she was turned away on Friday and told to...

Girl (4) drowns at Swakop

23 hours ago | Crime

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEK A four-year-old girl drowned this past weekend in Swakopmund, while her mother also nearly lost her life during a rescue...

Load More