No joy for workers

This year's Workers' Day will be celebrated at Walvis Bay amid a gloomy labour outlook in many sectors.

30 April 2019 | Labour

Labour commentators have decried massive job losses across most sectors of the Namibian economy, adding that the state of affairs was a putting a damper on tomorrow's Workers' Day celebrations.

The secretary-general of the National Union of Namibian Workers, Job Muniaro, said he saw no hope for the construction sector, where hundreds of workers have lost their jobs. According to him, construction remains in turmoil because Chinese contractors have taken over the sector, shutting Namibians out. He also questioned whether there was a need for the Namibian government to accept “destructive” loans from China.

“How do you charge these people taxes when they import their material but our own Pupkewitz has building materials? Even those workers will be retrenched because there are no buyers because only the Chinese are building.

“The question is, why we should bind ourselves to loans that are killing our economy in the interest of China because money is going out and no money is coming in,” said Muniaro, who represents the largest trade union federation in the country.

The Namibian Employers' Federation (NEF) boss Tim Parkhouse agrees that the unemployment situation in Namibia is very worrying. He said, however, that fewer companies had contacted him about retrenchments compared to 2017.

“Unfortunately we have little to celebrate; if you have a job be grateful you have one. Even if you are not happy, be grateful that you have a salary because there are far too many people out there who have nothing coming in,” said Parkhouse.





He further believes there is an immediate need to develop the private sector in order to move away from being so dependent on the government for tenders.



Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) secretary-general Mahongora Kavihuha has criticised President Hage Geingob for appointing only “capitalists” to his high-level panel on the Namibian economy.



Geingob in early April announced a 22-member advisory committee chaired by veteran economist Johannes !Gawaxab.



“It is completely out of thought and a clear indication that the president has no intention to involve those on the ground but rather be advised by the capitalists who are exploiting workers. The solution of unemployment and retrenchments is found when you involve the affected people which are the workers,” Kavihuha said.



He added that the government has completely failed workers because of a weak parliament.



“Parliament has officially failed to hold the executive accountable. And so we witness the poor behaviour and non-implementation of policies because the executive do not care because no one is holding them accountable,” he said.







Dire







Labour minister Erkki Nghimtina said in his budget motivation in the National Assembly that there was a need for employers and trade unions to consider a “shift system to give unemployed people an opportunity to earn a wage”.



He also highlighted that very few jobs had been created despite the government's efforts to create a favourable environment for investors and for economic expansion to create jobs.



The minister also pointed out that only 711 of the 8 613 job seekers registered on the Namibia Integrated Employment Information System (NIEIS) had found employment.



“This is a clear indication that the economy is unable to absorb the high numbers of jobseekers. If the economy cannot grow and cannot create the necessary job opportunities, then it should be redesigned and remodelled,” he said.



Nghimtina predicted that unemployment rates would soon hit the agricultural sector of the SADC region too because of droughts and cyclones.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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