The labour, industrialisation and employment-creation ministry is hard at work on many fronts, and aims to render more concrete support to trade unions. This support, according to minister Utoni Nujoma, will particularly be channelled in the areas of capacity-building, collective bargaining, and the promotion of trade unionism.
“We welcome your proposals, but will also reach out to Nafau (Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union) and other trade unions to arrange meaningful discussions on this objective,” he said while addressing Nafau’s 11th congress over the weekend at Rietfontein. The congress embraced a theme of “Workers striving towards improved working and living conditions”. The minister noted that this theme is derived from the basic principle that workers can best improve their working conditions and the lives of their families if they organise themselves into strong trade unions.
Said Nujoma: “Over the years, Nafau has been a dynamic progressive force in the trade union movement, and has led workers in several related sectors to achieve significant gains in the improvement of their wages and conditions of employment”.
He added that the Labour Act (2007) and other statutes create a strong framework for trade unions to defend the rights of workers, and to secure improvements in wages and conditions of employment. This is done through collective bargaining, and, if necessary, through protected strikes in accordance with statutory provisions.
“Collective bargaining is key to the improvement of the lives of workers. The Labour Act 2007 gives priority to collective bargaining as the best means to ensure that workers can achieve a decent standard of living. I do not think that Namibian workers and employers, and the Namibian public in general, adequately appreciate the value of collective bargaining,” said Nujoma.
He emphasised that collective bargaining empowers workers, through negotiations between trade unions and employers, to address a wide range of critical issues related to employment, including improving wages and benefits; strengthening job security; ensuring effective procedures to resolve grievances and disputes; addressing workplace discrimination, bullying and violence and harassment; and lessening the negative impact of retrenchments.
“To succeed in collective bargaining, trade unions must build strong internal structures that guarantee active participation of rank-and-file members.
The experience in Namibia, and indeed throughout the world, demonstrates that workers will have higher wages, better working conditions, greater job security and greater protection overall against exploitation if they are represented by trade unions.
The minister added that in order to maximise success in collective bargaining, Nafau and other trade unions must prioritise organising workers to join trade unions, must strive for unity amongst workers in all industries, and must cooperate with other trade unions.
“I note that Nafau has been successful recently in negotiating strong collective bargaining agreements with a number of large employers, and that it has committed itself to train its shop- stewards and other members in collective bargaining. I applaud you for this,” said the minister.
As the keynote speaker at the annual Nafau congress, Nujoma urged delegates to elect a strong leadership which has the capacity and the commitment to serve members to the best of their abilities, and to take the union to greater heights.