NHE Acts On Mass Housing Minimum Wage

The state-owned National Housing Enterprise (NHE) has acknowledged that companies awarded multi-million tenders to construct houses under the mass-housing programme are exploiting contractual loopholes not to pay decent wages to their workers. NHE now says that at the end of this month it will make more frequent site inspections to police whether contractors comply with Namibia’s laws and regulations regarding the minimum wage at least.

“We need to close the loopholes being exploited by contractors.

“The next phase will be much tighter. When the next phase of the project starts contractors will have to submit a verifiable wage bill so that we can monitor whether the minimum wage is being paid,” said Uazuva Kaumbi, NHE’s senior manager for technical services and property management.

Kaumbi who is also the acting chief executive officer at the NHE in the absence of Vinson Hailulu who is on leave, says letters have been prepared for distribution to all contractors by the end of January reminding them to comply with the minimum wage.

“While NHE currently has very general requirements, the next phase will include more specific regulations and requirements,” added Kaumbi.

“If a contractor is guilty of disregarding the minimum wage then we at NHE will put that contractor on notice to immediately rectify the issue,” explained Kaumbi.

The mass housing programme is marred by poor labour relations, with contractors and sub-contractors paying construction workers wages below the stipulated minimum wage for the construction industry as well as late payment of wages and unfair working conditions.

The poor labour relations at the government’s multi-billion dollar mass housing programme also attracted the attention of the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union, which last week said the labour unrest at mass housing sites stem from the discomfort felt by workers who are being exploited.

This week the Labour Court ordered a northern-based contractor, Standtoll Properties, to pay its workers almost N$300 000 as additional wages because it has been underpaying them.

The company told the court that it did not pay the minimum wage because its workers were trainees who did not achieve a certain productivity level. The Labour Court dismissed such explanation, saying the practice is unfair as the company unilaterally changed the minimum wage of labourers in contravention of the collective agreement in the construction industry.

The deputy labour commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Tuuliki Mwafufya-Shikongo, blamed the tendency to underpay workers on selfishness and self-enrichment.

“People have families and need to care for them. People have responsibilities. Anyone with a conscience will pay their workers a fair wage that adheres to the law. Those who do not adhere to the minimum wage are purely selfish and are in the business for self-enrichment,” she said during an interview.

Kaumbi also stressed that contracts entered into with the NHE for the mass housing scheme stipulate that contractors adhere to Namibian laws, which include adherence to the minimum wage.

However, a number of mass housing sites have been compromised with workers claiming they are not paid enough or are not paid on time.

The next phase of the mass housing project is scheduled to commence in April 2016, when NHE is supposed to hand over 10 000 houses to government.

Furthermore, Kaumbi admitted that some contractors receive late payments from NHE. However, he said the biggest obstacle in making payments on time is that money has to be released by the Ministry of Finance, after invoices have been submitted to the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. “We hope that ongoing consultations between the concerned parties will rectify the situation,” added Kaumbi.

Source : New Era