Nghimtina to Establish Directorate of Labour Relations

A NEW labour relations directorate aimed at educating people interested in knowing their rights and obligations will soon be established among a host of other improvements at the ministry of labour, industrial relations and employment creation.

Labour minister Erkki Nghimtina told parliament recently that the directorate will also train stakeholders in modern interest-based methods of collective bargaining.

The ministry is also reviewing its current system of labour dispute resolution at all levels, including workplace disciplinary proceedings, conciliation and arbitration under the auspices of the labour commissioner or private arbitration.

In addition, Nghimtina said his ministry is also presently exploring the feasibility of introducing a national minimum wage in order to protect the most vulnerable.

The current minimum wage, labour experts say, only looks good on paper but is not being implemented in most sectors.

“Only 41% to 64% of covered workers actually receive the minimum wage,” said the director of labour market services at the ministry, Albius Mwiya, making reference to the wage order for domestic workers that became effective on 1 April this year.

Mwiya also said although they have registered over 35 trade unions in the past year with 16 employer organisations, very little is being done by the unions to represent the workers’ interests on the ground.

The ministry also said a total of 11 strikes occurred last year, resulting in a loss of 175 662 hours of production.

Nghimtina said because too many Namibian employees and trade unions have yet to achieve a mature level of industrial relations that avoids strikes and lockouts, the ministry has stepped up its role to assist employers and employees solve their problems and avoid disruption of the economy.

“The ministry will also work with the newly-established ministry of state-owned enterprises in order to develop guidelines and other measures for improved industrial relations in our state-owned enterprises,” said Nghimtina.

He said that a national skills audit will also be carried out in conjunction with the Namibia Statistics Agency, which will be made available to the public by June along with a baseline study on productivity in preparation of a national productivity centre.

Nghimtina said in the following months, he will also introduce the Employment Creation Commission Bill in parliament to establish a multi-sectoral body to coordinate, monitor and evaluate employment creation.

“Binding employment guidelines will be introduced to ensure that preference will be given in the awarding of state contracts and economic rights to enterprises that create employment, provide qualifying skills training to new and incumbent employees and facilitate small medium enterprises,” he said.

Records from the ministry show that the National Employment Policy has targeted at least 90 000 new jobs while government’s Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth only created just over 15 000 permanent jobs.

Source : The Namibian