This Week in The Khuta – Who exploits who?
If you have been reading newspapers and watching the news of late you will agree with me when I say, the year 2012 has earned a reputation for being the year with the most labour disputes and will go down as the year of strikes. The country has seen a number of occasions where workers downed tools demanding better salaries, working conditions and employee benefits. Small and big companies alike have all had a taste of what I would call a selfish money hungry propaganda trick. I doubt anyone will forget South Africa’s Marikana workers’ strike, the South African truck drivers’ strike and our very own NBC, Poly and Agribank strikes. Come to think of it we are on the verge of more strikes from public workers and teachers if the negotiations between the unions and the government do not come out as expected.
All these disputes got me asking myself who is exploiting whom? Is it we the workers or our dear beloved government that’s getting more out of us than we are getting out of them. Thinking about that sends my head into a spin as no matter how I look at both sides of the coin, I still can not tell who is in the wrong and who is not. I can blame it on workers acting under mob psychology but then again I could be wrong, I can even say maybe it is something in the air that when inhaled by workers makes them demand what sometimes seem to be farfetched demands.
Another question is, what are employees really working for if their work is not up to standard or if they are not doing their jobs. Nurses at Katutura hospital are negligent, so I’m not really sure why they want to go on strike. Just last week another young mother lost her life at the hands of the lazy nurses. She suffered from an asthma attack and when nurses were called to her aid they simply told her to use her own inhaler. It is such a shame to think that even after such acts someone will down his or her tools and march around carrying a placard demanding a salary increment.
By going on strike workers are building political power and putting themselves in a position to force changes. And by refusing to agree to the demands of the workers the employers also build political power and put themselves in a position to force changes. When they give the option of work, or get fired, they exercise that power. It is all about money and showing who has the most power.
There comes a time when both private and public sectors all over the country are frustrated by government’s or their employers’ failure to conclude wage negotiations. These huge salaries and benefits are the source of the huge wage gap that exists between the poor and the rich and it is indeed disturbing to see that people look at the public purse and see it as a pot of gold to be looted.
I think both parties have forgotten their duties and the promises and pledges they made to one another. The government has forgotten its duty to help its people to make their economy better and the people have forgotten that it is through them that an economy grows and a country develops. I feel personal egos have gotten in the way of what should be a good employee and employer relationship.
Instead of fighting battles that should not even be fought in the first place, both parties should ask themselves who is getting hurt in the process of these strikes, because strikes do hurt people and are never a good idea. Not only do we cripple and maim our economy but we hurt our children, families and slow down our country’s development in the process of demanding and denying better salaries and employee benefits.