Tomorrow, Namibia will pause and join the rest of the world to observe May Day amid the viral onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been characterised by severe lockdowns, restrictions on human interaction and a slowdown on economic activity.
This year’s celebration is no different to the sombre atmosphere that prevailed over May Day events in 2020 when most of the countries were forced to come up with harsh lockdown measures to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Now, over a year later into the pandemic, the plight of ordinary workers remains under threat because of this virulent pandemic.
There is no end in sight, as countries continue to battle the deadly virus, although the development and subsequent rollout of vaccines has been described as an unprecedented feat in the fight against Covid-19.
However, the fact remains that Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the global economy, which will sadly take years to rebuild.
In Namibia alone, over 11 000 jobs were lost since the start of the pandemic.
This number, reported by labour minister Utoni Nujoma recently, could just be the tip of the iceberg as many other job losses may not have been recorded by the ministry.
These job losses have without doubt worsened our country’s unemployment rate, which stands at a woeful 33%.
Whereas government is trying to come up with structural reforms to help boost economic growth and create much-needed jobs and recover from the economic fallout of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, the situation remains grim.
Turning to the significance of May Day, we have particularly observed the sheer disregard of workers’ rights during this pandemic.
Abuse of workers in particular has been on the rise, with many employers using Covid-19 as an excuse to justify job cuts and low wages.
Given the perennial challenges faced by Namibian workers, especially among the cohort of low-wage employees, there is a serious need to act against various forms of abuse that our people are subjected to on a regular basis.
In some organisations, nothing much has been done to prevent worker exposures, while others have been forced to work without personal protective equipment (PPE), further exposing themselves and their loved ones to Covid-19.
Unions representing the interests of employees, particularly those providing essential services, should work around the clock to ensure companies and organisations comply with safety standards and regulations without fear or favour.
Equally, we should pause for a moment and appreciate the dedication and commitment shown by our essential service workers, who despite risking their lives on the front line continue to deliver by keeping our country going through these unprecedented times.
We should never forget the workers and their social and economic achievements over the years.