• October 22nd, 2020

Job losses swell… as pandemic continues to wreck economy

Job losses in Namibia because of the Covid-19 pandemic have increased significantly since the start of the initial lockdown in March as businesses struggle to stay alive. 
The latest figures from the labour ministry, covering 27 March to 12 June 2020, shows notices to retrench 4 460 employees by 290 employers. 

Of these, 1 665 employees have been retrenched for reasons directly related to Covid-19, while 2 795 employees have been let go for other reasons. 
During the same time last year, the Labour Commissioner received notices of retrenchment from 68 employers, which affected 485 employees. 
“The huge difference between these two comparative statistics of notices of retrenchment is a wake-up call that Covid-19 has serious direct impact on businesses and employees alike,” said Bro-Matthew Shinguadja, Executive Director in the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation. 

Responding to questions from New Era, Shinguadja noted that the accommodation and food services sectors recorded the highest number of retrenchments at 1 754, followed by mining and quarrying with 1 005 job losses.

Some of the sectors that did not record any retrenchment so far include water supply and related industries, public administration as well as defence and security. 

However, Shinguadja admitted that the reported job losses do not necessarily paint an accurate picture of the entire retrenchment situation in the country, saying; “some employers might not have reported their retrenchments to the Labour Commissioner. Therefore, the statistics might be different from the one provided herein as they are only for those who took action to notify the Labour Commissioner as per the Labour Act. Some might have opted to only notify employees’ representatives. In addition, no form of notices of retrenchment has been received from an employer in an informal sector, although retrenchment appears rife in this sector too.”  
He added that while no official statistics are available from the informal sector, there is no doubt that it has been severely affected and continues being extremely vulnerable to job losses.  
“The ministry understands the current situation that the country, the region, the continent and the world find themselves in, however, employers are being advised not to take advantage of the situation to lay off their employees unprocedurally,” Shinguadja continued.      

Meanwhile, unionists have cautioned about an escalation in job losses after the Windhoek High Court recently declared a government proclamation, which sought to forbid retrenchments and salary cuts of employers during the state of emergency, as unconstitutional and invalid.

New Era reported that Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) secretary general Justina Jonas-Emvula, foresees a wave of mass retrenchments over the coming weeks as a result of the judgement. She feels the judgement has opened the door for employers to take advantage of the situation. 

“Employers must be ready to avail their financial records to clearly state they have been really affected by the pandemic. Because we have already seen some employers taking advantage of the situation when they were not really affected,” said Jonas-Emvula. 

She further indicated that employers who want to retrench should adhere to the Labour Act concerning compensation. 

Labour expert Herbert Jauch said the judgement only brought to the fore what was already known in the industry – that employees are not protected. “This ruling has only opened the door wider and clearly encourages employers to retrench their employees much more easily than ever before. This is really a regrettable judgement,” said Jauch. 

In May, the Namibia Employers’ Federation, Namibia Employers Association and five others instituted legal action against the head of state, attorney general, minister of labour, minister of health and eight others. The group claimed that President Hage Geingob exceeded his powers when he set aside the Labour Act provisions and issued proclamations that it would be an offence if any employer dismisses their employees, reduced their salaries, forced them to take unpaid leave or refused to reinstate them under certain conditions because their businesses were affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 



Edgar Brandt
2020-07-02 10:11:07 | 3 months ago


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