Security guards threaten Christmas strike
Security guards staged countrywide protests yesterday in a demand for better pay and working conditions.
04 November 2016 | Labour
John Kwedhi, general secretary of Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau), told hundreds of security guards at a peaceful demonstration in Windhoek that they “protect the life, the property and indeed the economy of the country”.
He warned security company owners that “if they don''t want their clients'' Christmas holiday to be spoiled, they must pay us. If they fail to pay us, then they must know their clients can cancel those hotels in Swakopmund, Cape Town and Dubai and wherever else they go.”
He said the unions would not strike before 29 November, the day set aside by the labour commissioner for conciliation talks between the unions and the Security Association of Namibia (SAN) for improved wages.
More money for pets
However, should the outcome of those talks not be in line with the union''s demands, Kwedhi said a strike would be called.
“For you to strike will be a disaster for them,” he told guards.
Namibia Independent Security Union (Nisu) general secretary Simon Kandondo told the demonstrators that security company owners and customers spend more food on their pets than on their employees.
“The money they spend is so much, but they fail to pay you guys. They get huge salaries, but they sit in the office doing paperwork, while you are the one sitting on the site where the money is coming from.”
At least 1 000 security guards took to the streets in Windhoek and several towns as part of the peaceful demonstration.
“We are here today to demand N$12.50 per hour minimum wage. We demand that they pay us more so that we can gain benefits, housing allowances, transport allowances and so that we can pay to educate our children,” a female security guard told Namibian Sun. She did not want to give her name.
Another female security guard claimed that some of the sites she has worked at did not provide toilet facilities and when toilets were available, money was deducted from her salary for the privilege.
The lack of toilets and water for guards on duty, in addition to substantial wage deductions for a variety of reasons, are common complaints.
“Then also, when they find you sleeping they charge you N$100. I work for N$7 per hour, but they fine you N$100.” She furthermore claimed that she had been charged bank fees of N$150 per month, even when paid in cash.
T Shikwambe, a female security guard working in Windhoek, said the issues she is frustrated about include “no pension or medical aid and we receive no double pay on Sundays. Some people don''t have access to a toilet or water when on duty. They don''t pay us according to the law.”
She said she was in agreement with many of her fellow workers that she would strike if not satisfied with the outcome of the conciliation.
Aaron Setunga said he receives no paid sick leave, but is required to hand in a doctor''s note regardless. He claimed that when security guards are asked to work overtime, they aren''t paid extra.
“We sometimes have to stand for an extra five or six hours, no pay. And they can force you to work overtime, and even then they don''t give you food or water.”
Some of the security guards at yesterday''s demonstration alleged they had been warned by their employers not to join in the demonstration.
“They threatened people, called us in and said we should not come here. We have no freedom of speech, and are not allowed to give our views.”
A petition handed to the labour commissioner highlighted grievances related to low wages, unclear and at times illegal working conditions, and pay deductions.
The petition listed numerous demands, including a request that labour inspectors conduct an immediate inspection of all registered security companies in order to find out “how and when they pay salaries and wages to security guards.”
Furthermore, the petition demands that the labour inspectors determine whether all security companies adhere to the provisions of the labour and social security laws.
In addition to Natau and NISU, the Namibia Security Guard Watchmen Union (NASGWU) was represented by its secretary-general, Andreas Hausiku, at yesterday''s event.