Employment security starts with supporting employers, not undermining them
The Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF) reacted with shock to the draft Labour Directive issued earlier this week by the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation.
The draft directive was released by the ministry on Monday, 20 April but has to be gazetted before it becomes effective. It is the gazetting that the CIF wants to stall or prevent, saying that this directive, if promulgated will be the final nail in the coffin of the construction industry.
The federation’s consulting General Manager, Bärbel Kirchner, said “Every single employer is fighting for survival to ensure that they have something to return to beyond the lockdown period and the aftermath of Covid-19. They are at their wits’ end to ensure that relationships with employees can be maintained and that jobs can continue to be secured where possible, once businesses start operating again and have sufficient demand to be able to operate optimally”.
Pointing out that the directive is harsh and restrictive, she commented “Currently close to 70% of our employers are already operating at a loss. They have struggled to survive four terrible years of recession.”
The directive prohibits any employer to “(a) dismiss an employee or serve a notice of collective termination in terms of section 24 of the [Labour] Act; (b) terminate the employment relationship with an employee; or (c) summarily dismiss or send an employee home on unpaid leave, forced annual leave or sick leave.” The directive is the labour ministry’s response to avoid large-scale retrenchments due to Covid-19.
Following a different track, the CIF proposed that the ministry should rather be flexible on some labour act regulations to ensure optimal employment.
“If however, the Labour Directive Relating to Covid-19 is to further restrict employers, to the extent that the proposed directive supersedes the stipulations of the Labour Act 2007 which effectively guides the relationship between the employer and the employee, then it can only lead to disastrous consequences, with many businesses in the construction sector filing for liquidation or closing down,” said Kirchner.
“The CIF believes that this can not be the intention of what should have been a carefully deliberated and agreed directive. Contrary to media reports, the Labour Directive Relating to Covid-19 did not materialise on any so-called agreement between employer representatives and [the ministry]. In fact, some employer representatives were only informed of the Directive and had no chance to give input to that document although they have repeatedly shared information about the precarious state of their industries as well as measures that could lead to optimal levels of employment with the minister and senior officials. Considering the content of the directive, the CIF feels and wonders whether it reflects an authority that might be out of touch with reality, if not in contradiction to its own mandate.”