GOBABIS – The Namibia Farm Workers Union (Nafwu) General Secretary Rocco Nguvauva is calling on the agricultural sector to ensure that the rights of farm workers to freely participate in the upcoming Presidential and National Assembly elections are respected.
He made this call last week during President Hage Geingob’s town hall meeting at the Van Der Walt Primary School hall in Gobabis, Omaheke Region.
Nguvauva also bemoaned the plight of farm workers, saying that farm workers are faced with high-income inequality such as working odd hours that do not match their salaries which are “peanuts”. “Even though there is a maximum wage set for farm workers, it is not enough to sustain their livelihood,” Nguvauva said. He urged the government to reform the current wage agreement and implement a market and realistic minimum wage that would be mandatory throughout the sector. According to the report by the Agricultural Employers’ Association AEA’s bi-annual wage survey for the 2017/2018 period, the average value of the basic salary of farm workers has increased. Compared to the survey done in 2016, the latest average value of farm workers’ salaries has increased by 8.3 percent (N$2 138 per month).
According to a report by the Namibia Agricultural Union the monthly cash salary is on average N$1 530 and the value of rations N$608. This is 53 percent higher than the minimum wage for farm workers, which is currently N$1 400.
According to the union, the average total remuneration package per farm worker, if the value of the free benefits is added, is N$3 413 per month or N$17.50 per hour.
Furthermore, Nguvauva said another challenge faced by farm workers are prolonged cases at the labour commission office and the lack of arbitrators, which he said leads to farm workers losing their jobs. “If there are labour inspectors in the regions, then they are incompetent, they are nowhere to be seen,” he added.
He said the union has on numerous occasions written to the labour ministry about these issues but the situation remains the same. Additionally, farm workers are evicted, he said, listing another challenge these workers encounter. “Mostly every day our offices are visited by farm workers who are evicted from farms,” he said.
“Sometimes when there is a change of ownership at the farms the new owners refuse to buy the farms with running concerns thus leading to workers in the corridors,” he added.
Nguvauva begged the Ministry of Land Reform when it purchases farms for resettlement to prioritise farm workers for resettlement.