• September 22nd, 2020

Unionists call for protection of workers

Although union experts agree the negative impact Covid-19 has on the economy, they warned that there should be a balance between the health of Namibians, workers protection and the country’s economic recovery. 

With most business’ doors closed and the majority of Namibia’s workforce at home, the economic activity has slowed down since the beginning of the 21 days national lockdown implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last week, full or partial lockdown measures are now affecting almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81% of the world’s workforce. As of 1 April 2020, the ILO’s new global estimates indicate that working hours will decline by 6.7% in the second quarter of 2020, which is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. 

The majority of job losses and declining working hours will occur in hardest-hit sectors. ILO estimates 1.25 billion workers, representing almost 38% of the global workforce, are employed in sectors facing a severe decline in output and a high risk of workforce displacement. 

Key sectors include retail trade, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing.
During yesterday’s briefing at the Covid-19 communication centre, three union experts gave their views on the impact of Covid-19 on the labour sector in Namibia.

Both unionists warned that despite the negative effects on the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, employers should not retrench workers during this difficult times.

Namibia Employer’s Federation (NEF) secretary general Daan Strauss said there is a need to balance the health of Namibians, workers protection and the economy.

“No one was prepared. It’s an unprecedented pandemic. The tourism and the hospitality is hard hit. We sit with a situation where money is not coming in. We need to do something with staff members. We need to make plans to recover the economy. There is a need to balance between health of Namibians and the economy. We need to call on the leadership to create social platforms and stand together,” Strauss suggested.

Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha however does not agree that Namibia was not prepared for the crisis, saying government has been ignoring to take measures that could assist needy Namibians. He cited the lack of implementation of the long initiated basic income grant, which could have gone a long way in helping the needy and the vulnerable communities. He also blamed government for lack of a social dialogue.

He said government should engage all unions representing workers and not only those in cahoots with. 
“We might differ with you but we are willing to assist where we can. Can someone go and shout in the corridors of State House that we need to social dialogue. Government owes us the duty to play a vital role to bring everyone onboard. We need to move in the same direction. We received wishy-washy dialogue. Social dialogue shouldn’t be done during a crisis. We are paying lipstick to social dialogue. We need to hold hands,” Kavihuha reacted. 
National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) secretary general Job Muniaro said there is a need to have positive discussions and listen to one another during this crisis.

He cautioned that if employers do not listen to the working conditions of workers, then they won’t be able to make informed decisions. Muniaro noted that the virus pandemic has devastated the Namibian workforce.
He listed construction, factories, tourism and hospitality industries as being hardest hit.

“It has created job losses. Our economy is almost 50% on standstill. It has destroyed self-employment. When you drive around, street vendors and restaurants are closed. It destroyed SMEs. When you look at factories-the lockdown has affected them heavily. They are still keeping our workers and paying them while home, but for how long?” he questioned.
He believes Namibia will take a long time to recover post Covid-19, as the country already faced some economic problems. Muniaro called on reputable institutions to do proper research and provide actual data on the impact of Covid-19.
To date, there are 16 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country, with no death reported. -anakale@nepc.com.na

Albertina Nakale
2020-04-14 10:58:52 | 5 months ago

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