By Edgar Brandt
WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare yesterday announced the historic action taken by government with the introduction of a minimum wage for Namibia’s estimated 46 000 domestic workers, who have been described as some of the lowest paid and most under-recognised employees in the country.
The minimum wage will come into effect on April 1, 2015 and is expected to be gazetted on December 24 2014 as an official wage order by the Labour Minister Doreen Sioka.
The monthly minimum wage of N$1 218 per month for domestic workers will be subject to an increase equivalent to the consumer price index plus five percent as of April 01, 2016.
The wage order will be supported by the full force of the law and be enforceable in the same manner as the basic conditions of employment contained in the Labour Act of 2007, which already covers domestic workers.
“Domestic workers contribute great value to the national economy by providing supportive services to working people. They make it possible for many people to work outside of their homes and to contribute more productively to national economic development,” said Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Alpheus Muheua, in Windhoek yesterday.
The occasion marks the first time ever that government has set a minimum wage for the sector following an investigation by a wage commission, which was chaired by former deputy prime minister, Dr Libertina Amathila.
“This is a small, but significant step in the government’s efforts to address the problem of extreme income inequality,” added Muheua.
The deputy minister further said the low wages being paid to domestic workers is a vestige of the apartheid system and colonialism that prevailed in the country for many years.
He noted however that the labour inspectorate’s capacity needs to be strengthened to effectively enforce the new minimum wage and said a telephonic system in the form of a toll-free line or a SMS line should be introduced as a means to contact the labour ministry for assistance.
The Wages Commission for Domestic Workers was appointed in May 2012 by then Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, after it was endorsed by Cabinet.
The five-member tripartite commission was tasked to investigate the situation of domestic workers and to make recommendations to the minister on minimum remuneration and conditions of employment for domestic workers.
Other recommendations by the commission which have been adopted by the labour minister include the definition of domestic work as “work performed in or for a household and includes, but is not limited to, the work of housekeepers, cooks, nannies, drivers and gardeners.”
The minimum conditions of employment and the minimum wage will be applicable to all non-farm domestic workers, including domestic workers placed by private agencies and farm domestic workers not covered by a collective agreement in the agricultural sector.
“The minimum wage should be based on domestic work as an industry and not based on the type of work or tasks performed,” explained Muheua.
Furthermore, the entry age for domestic work will be 18, subject to exceptions promulgated by the minister in the wage order or by regulation.
“The provision of items such as food, clothing or any other items may not be a substitute for wage payments. Employees must receive their minimum monetary remuneration in full every month,” explained Muheua.
Also, any employer must provide a transport allowance equivalent to round-trip public transport fares, where public transport is available, unless the employer provides transport.
And as the festive season has arrived the deputy minister made it crystal clear that if a domestic worker accompanies an employer on vacation for the purposes of providing services to a household then this shall be treated as working time.
Flanked by the Chairperson of the Wages Commission for Domestic Workers, Dr Amathila, Labour Commissioner Bro-Matthew Shinguadja, Secretary General of the Namibian Employers’ Federation, Tim Parkhouse, Special Advisor to the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Vicki ya Toivo and Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, Mahongora Kavihuhua, Muheua also said personal protective equipment should be provided free of charge and he stipulated minimum standard accommodation.
Muheua further pledged that a code of conduct for both domestic workers and employers will be developed by the ministry and be published together with the wage order as a code of good practice in terms of the Labour Act.
“The code of conduct shall address issues of duties and obligations of both employers and employees and or work ethics. Also, HIV and pregnancy testing should be voluntary and this shall be included in the code of conduct,” said Muheua.
Statistics from the 2012 Labour Force Survey on domestic workers:
- Namibia has about 46 000 domestic workers of whom 12 000 are employed on farms
- About 71% of domestic workers are female
- 67 % of domestic workers earn less than N$1 000 per month
- 45% of domestic workers earn less than N$600 per month
- Some full-time domestic workers earn as little as N$200 per month
- 38% of domestic workers are the sole breadwinners for their families
- The overall monthly median wage for domestic workers is N$600 compared to N$2 500 for other sectors
-The median hourly wage for non-farm domestic workers is N$4.27 compared to N$5.90 for unskilled workers New Era Reporter
2014-12-18 08:01:01 | 5 years ago