Unions Feel Workers’ Rights are Trampled On

IN CELEBRATION of the International Workers’ Day, several unions in Namibia yesterday voiced their concerns over the continued abuse of workers at the hand of their employers.

The day, which is also known as “May day”, is celebrated all over the world, and this year, Namibia held its main event at Katima Mulilo, celebrating the day under the theme: “Maintaining Productivity Sustained by Mutual Dialogue”.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, the interim president of the new Namibia National Labour Organisation (NNLO), Evilastus Kaaronda, said there is still a long way to go for workers’ rights to be recognised.

Kaaronda, who previously worked as the secretary-general for the National Union of Namibian Workers’ (NUNW) said workers rights continue to be trampled on and the government remains powerless to deal with some of these issues.

“For instance, cases like that of Chinese employers who use their workers to collect and dispose their faeces. If it is not addressed, employees will continue to suffer in silence,” said Kaaronda, adding that the new union was formed to deal with this issues effectively.

President of the Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MUN) Ismael Kasuto said exploitation of workers has become the order of the day, giving illustrations of workers at marble mines in Erongo region.

“Workers are assaulted and live in poor conditions at these mines,” said Kasuto, adding that they have been doing continuous follow-ups at the mines. The Namibian recently reported on the slave-like conditions that workers at these mines are exposed to. “This is why we cannot celebrate this day. Celebrate what? This is a day to sit back and take stock of what needs to be improved and what else needs to be done to improve workers’ conditions,” said Kasuto.

Werner January, the president of Namibia Taxi and Transport Union (NTTU), who recently threatened to hold a massive strike in June should parliament refuse to grant their request of reducing taxi fines, said workers’ day must be celebrated.

“It is worth celebrating this day because it is an opportunity for workers to raise their problems,” said January.

According to him, even though the workers’ pleas have been sidelined by the government, the union cannot dance to the tune of the government but will remain unhindered in its fight for the rights of the workers.

“Workers need transport, benefits, better salaries and accommodation. We, as a union, must exert pressure on the government to ensure that these needs are provided for,” said January.

He also pointed out that so far, the union has managed to push the government to come up with the mass housing initiative, “It is because of the pressure we put on them that they have come up with this idea.”

“Cab drivers have gained respect in the eye of society and we can count this as one of our achievements,” said January.

The Namibia National Teachers Union’s (Nantu) secretary-general, Basillius Haingura, said the union has definitely played a significant role in improving the lives of teachers.

Haingura cited the government’s decision to alter the way in which they initially planned to run the English Language Proficiency Programme’s (ELPP)after the union argued that the government’s target was not clear.

“It is definitely an achievement, especially since the government was adamant to conduct the ELPP in a way in which we though was unfair,” said Haingura.

Speaking at Katima Mulilo on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Hage Geingob said poor working conditions are endured by many workers across the country. Geingob warned that employers, who expose their workers to inhumane treatment, are guilty of violating the country’s laws and thus will be dealt with accordingly.

“In order to achieve sustainability and productivity, workers must enjoy conducive working conditions,” said Geingob.

He further aised employers to respect workers rights or anyone who violates the rights of workers will face the full wrath of the law.

Source : The Namibian