25 Feb 2016 11:10am
WINDHOEK, 25 FEB (NAMPA) - Greed, racist attitudes and poor communication on the part of the employers have been identified as issues hampering good labour relations.
This was said by the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation Erkki Nghimtina when he officially opened the first national social dialogue forum on labour and employment, which commenced in the capital on Wednesday.
He added that other factors include employers' unwillingness to share information, a lack of interest in the well-being of the workers, insensitivity to the conditions under which their employees live, lack of competence in collective bargaining and ill-informed decision-making.
Nghimtina also said unions make unrealistic bargaining demands and ignore or lack the willingness to acquaint themselves with economic realities relating to their disputes.
He then said good labour relations in Namibia are also hindered by opportunistic and self-seeking leaders who do not always have the interests of union members at heart, inter-union fighting rather than focusing on the needs of the workers, and a lack of competence in collective bargaining.
Although we do not accept that these observations are generally valid, there are elements of truth in these criticisms when one examines particular disputes or labour relations in Namibia in general, he noted.
Each of the criticisms, the minister added, challenges stakeholders to find the means to reverse the situation and to eliminate these obstacles to good labour relations.
He called on the participants to address these issues with a view to finding the best means to minimise and resolve labour disputes and to prevent strikes and lock-outs.
Nghimtina noted that a recent quarterly report of the Labour Commissioner for the third quarter of 2015/16 indicates made mention of five industrial actions, of which four were illegal strikes.
The most notable was a 45-day illegal strike involving 1 500 workers in the fishing industry, resulting in a loss of 540 000 production hours and a huge loss of wages.
Creating employment for and by the Namibian youth, Nghimtina stressed, is one of the biggest challenges facing the country: I think it is fair to say that our future as a peaceful and prosperous nation depends upon our meeting this challenge.
He advised the participants to focus on how Namibia can empower the youth with skills and decent work.
Also speaking at the forum was the Secretary-General (SG) of the Namibian Employers' Federation (NEF) Tim Parkhouse, who said in general, labour relations in Namibia are not in a bad shape, but there is room for improvement.
He expressed disappointment in the Employment Services Act, 2011 (ESA) which was implemented last year by the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, which he said is not functioning properly.
It was reported in a local daily in September last year that NEF questioned the practicality of the ESA, a new law requiring all employers with 25 or more staff to report job vacancies or new positions to the Employment Service Bureau in the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation.
It said We are seriously concerned about the practical implications of the Act and how effectively it can and will run. Who will verify and authenticate CVs and do reference checks? It is not clear as to who within the National Bureau will decide on the suitability of candidates to be referred to an employer. The evaluation of CVs is not something that can be learned in a few days, Parkhouse was quoted as saying.
The new law, which was gazetted in September, is intended to promote inclusivity and non-discrimination in job appointments in the country.
The forum is being held under the theme 'Inaugurating a national social dialogue forum for decent employment creation and harmonious labour relations,' with special attention on improving the current state of labour relations in Namibia and creating employment of Namibian youth.
It ends on Thursday.