Guest Contributor | Feb 20, 2024 | 0
Extension of Collective Agreement for Construction Sector
Construction Industries Federation of Namibia apologises to Ministry of Labour.
After successful negotiations for the minimum wage payable as per category of worker, as well as the minimum employment conditions, the Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF) and the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) have signed a Collective Agreement on 3 October 2023. This agreement was submitted to the office of Minister Uutoni Nujoma on 4 October 2023. This included the request that the Collective Agreement would be extended and binding to all employers and employees in the construction sector. This document was verified by the CIF and MANWU, and signed by both parties, and indeed was the correct version.
On 7 November 2023, the CIF had been asked to provide a soft copy of the agreement to the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation (MoL), which was then forwarded per e-mail to the authority. The process to extend the Collective Agreement took its course, and the MoL forwarded the documentation to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), following which the agreement was published in the Government Gazette on 20 December 2023, with the call for objections, which the authorities needed to receive by 19 January 2024. A grace period was given for 14 days to receive any late objections.
CIF Executive Director, Bärbel Kirchner, said: “Fortunately, we have picked up the error just before the grace period ended. Indeed there was a mistake in the soft copy that was sent per e-mail to the Ministry of Labour. This was an honest human error, and there was nothing deliberate about this. We had sent a copy of what we had thought was a final version but indeed there was another version which had included the corrections made afterwards, which were also reflected in the signed copy of the agreement, which had been delivered to the minister’s office on 4 October 2023.
“Personally, I would like to apologise for the CIF’s part in creating this confusion. We do hope that this matter can be resolved quickly. As soon as we have noticed this error, we have also informed our members.
“It is sad that it has become a blame game. We recognise the mistake that we have made. But at the end of the day, one would also have hoped that any soft copy would be compared with the hard copy; i.e. the Microsoft Word document with the signed agreement, by the authorities. That has not occurred. At the same time, during the “objection phase” not one of the parties has picked up the error. The CIF became aware once a contractor had questioned the calculation of the increases.
“As soon as we noticed the error, we immediately informed the Ministry of Labour and MANWU, and asked the authority that it would be corrected before it was published again. We had hoped that since there had been no other objections, that the correct Collective Agreement could be published immediately. But unfortunately this is not how the law works. We will now have to wait until the process is completed.
“While we are sorry about this situation, we must also remember that most of our members already pay above the minimum wage. The increases that are being referred to are not a percentage increase for workers in given categories; and are also not for all employees in the construction sector. A minimum wage merely determines what the absolute minimum is what a worker in specific category should get paid. If the worker is already paid higher than the minimum wage payable, then it is within the discretion of the employer to increase the wages or not.
It is hoped that this matter will lead to greater awareness of the minimum wages payable in the construction sector. Whilst the authorities are keen to introduce a National Minimum Wage, the construction industry is one of the few industries that already has determined the minimum employment conditions and the minimum wage payable, a long while back.
Kirchner commented: “We regard the Collective Agreement for our industry, and the extension of it, as extremely valuable. It is important that we have a level playing field with regard to the employee- costs-to -company. It is therefore important that everyone acquaints themselves, and indeed also the labour inspectors of the Ministry of Labour, who are tasked to monitor to adherence to the Collective Agreement, once its extension has been gazetted.”