Poor working conditions at mass housing project: Manwu

WALVIS BAY: The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers’ Union (Manwu) has expressed concern over the poor working conditions labourers are working under at the mass housing project in Walvis Bay’s Kuisebmond residential area.

At a meeting between the union and workers at the site on Friday, Manwu national organiser Matti Haimbilli told workers that he received several complaints from some workers that they are underpaid, and that they do not have proper safety clothing while on site. Instead of receiving the minimum wage of N.dollars 12,11 per hour, some workers also earn between N.dollars 7 and N.dollars 10.

“Companies are receiving huge amounts from the mass housing tender while workers get only crumbs. What expertise do they bring to our country? They are just exploiting Namibians,” he said.

According to Haimbili, Namibians can do bricklaying, carpeting, painting, and plumbing, and can also build quality houses. He called on companies to supply their workers with masks, safety boots, and gloves during working hours. He also called on non-union members to join Manwu in order to benefit from better pay, pension and medical benefits, training, affirmative action issues, as well as other benefits.

Government has availed N.dollars 2,5 billion to the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) for the construction of the mass housing project in the Erongo Region. NHE intends to build at least 8 850 houses within the next 18 months in the region as part of the first phase of the project. The tender to construct the homes was awarded to a South African-based company, 7 Sirs, which makes use of local contractors and skilled and unskilled workers.

7 Sirs is a property development and construction company building low-cost and mid-range municipal housing developments, private property developments, civil and road construction.

When Nampa visited the site during the meeting, some sub-contractors who spoke on condition of anonymity said they feared intimidation from management and fear losing their jobs if they speak to the media.

“I might lose my job if I tell you what is going on here. It is a case of take-it-or-leave-it,” one source stressed.

According to the sub-contractor, he is paid N.dollars 2 200 to build the foundation of a house, N.dollars 1 500 to erect a roof, about N.dollars 30 to hang one door, and about N.dollars 400 to install the ceiling of a house.

He said he employs about seven workers, who should earn a minimum wage of N.dollars 12,11 per hour – a rate which he said he cannot afford.

Nampa spoke to two young women – Elfrieda Hausiku, 19; and Eli Mukosho, 22 – who said they are unskilled labourers and earn N.dollars 7 per hour.

“For N.dollars 7 we are pushing wheelbarrows around the whole day, and it is slavery,” they stated.

Many male and female workers were dressed in jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and flip-flops and worked without any safety gear.

Members of the union include skilled, semi-skilled and labourers working in the metal, building, engineering, motors, plastic, wood industry, and other related sectors.