SWAKOPMUND – Businesses have asked that a balance be struck between preserving jobs and making sure Namibian workers receive a decent wage.
These sentiments were highlighted during the consultation with employers, union representatives as well as the public sector who attended a public hearing on minimum wage consultations currently underway in Swakopmund.
The Wages Commission was inaugurated on 18 February 2021 by labour minister Utoni Nujoma.
The information sessions consist of written representations, oral presentations at public gatherings, expert inputs as well as literature review.
The commission visited towns such as Gobabis, Keetmanshoop, Aussenkehr, Otjiwarongo, Opuwo, Oshakati, Eenhana, Rundu, Katima Mulilo and now Swakopmund for public input.
Unionists, who strongly support the idea of a minimum wage for all sectors, proposed minimum wages between N$25 per hour to N$64 per hour during the discussions with the national minimum Wages Commission.
According to unionist Richard Kaihimbi, a minimum wage will not only address the living conditions of Namibia’s workforce but will also assist the country in addressing inequality among its people.
“That is why we propose that at least a N$25 for the security sector, as they (employees) are the lowest paid currently, while suggesting at least N$75 per hour for our policemen and women,” he said.
He says better wages will not only contribute to better living conditions but will also encourage sound working relations among employees and their employers.
However, Kaihimbi says some employers are reluctant when it comes to enforcing the Labour Act, so the ministry must look at empowering trade unions to enforce the minimum wage once it becomes legal.
Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) regional branch coordinator Johannes Shayuka, however, said the retail industry, security industry and the tourism industry should be critically looked at, as their workers are mostly underpaid.
“Employees in these sectors, in some cases, take home N$1 500 a month for an industry that rakes in billions,” he said during his presentation.
Therefore, he says a minimum wage will address the inequalities in these sectors.
Shayuka proposed that an average salary for retail should be N$33 per hour, translating to N$6 000; whereas, tourism and hospitality N$27 per hour, which translates to N$5 000 as a minimum wage.
He added the fishing industry salaries should also be adjusted to make sure factory workers earn at least N$7 000 per month, while those working on vessels in the hake industry should earn at least N$15 000 a month, horse mackerel N$12 000, and those on snoek crab and monk vessels earn at least N$8 000.
Human resource practitioner at Swakop Uranium Patrick Chizabulyo, however, said a minimum wage, although it has its advantages, various factors, such as sustaining and continuous job creation must be taken into account when decisions are made.
According to Chizabulyo, other aspects such as contract employment, apprenticeships, holiday jobs and in-service training programmes should also be considered when making decisions, as that can have an impact if a minimum wage is set for them.
“We should bear in mind that wages in these parts might have a negative effect on our education system, instead of encouraging our youth to take part in these programmes to gain experience.”
Other employers who took the podium also said the minimum wage should carefully be thought through, as some industries might look lucrative but in reality operating in volatile climates.
“Some of the jobs are seasonal, and wages might be adjusted to make sure that employees have a sustainable salary throughout the year. All these factors should be taken into account,” business owners in the tourism industry said.
According to the chairperson of the commission, Marius Wakadumo, the proposed national minimum wage intends to improve the remuneration levels, particularly of lowly paid employees, improve individual and household incomes, contribute to poverty alleviation and a decent standard of living.
These recommendations will, however, exempt some employers in a wage order.
The chairperson added the commission would first investigate and determine all employment sectors’ remuneration structures.
“Once done with it, we will compile a report with recommendations on proposed national minimum wages, which will also be based on public presentations to the line minister,” he explained.
The commission also consists of Edwina Hashitutuva, Gideon Thomas, Fritz Nghiishililwa and Alexia Kariko.