Jauch is correct in saying that the labour-hire companies are primarily interested in the super-exploitation of Namibian workers. However, I would like to raise the point that the use of casual labour or sub-contracting is part of the labour-flexibility framework of the world-wide implementation of neo-liberalism. It is crucial to properly frame this debate in order to refine our resistance strategy to labour-hire companies.
We should start by challenging businesspeople like Tim Parkhouse of the Namibian Employers’ Federation (‘Labour hire fight rages on,’ The Namibian, 10 August) who claims to be the voice of reason in this discussion.
However, Parkhouse is the voice of big business and the capitalists are only interested in profits. Freedom has become synonymous with freedom of the market, which really just means full freedom for the wealthy. All that matters is what is good for Wall Street, never mind the rest of humanity (Main Street). Parkhouse represents the Namibian voice of Wall Street.
Wall Street or neo-liberalism has launched an all-out attack on all forms of social solidarity. This is what labour flexibility is about. This approach makes it seem that having full employment with decent incomes is just a pipe dream. However, the reality is that this existed for three decades (until 1973) in advanced economies following World War II.
It is possible not to have the massive unemployment and slave wages that we have today. A humane alternative is achievable. However, we should realise that neo-liberalism is a political project (as opposed to a natural state of affairs) to reestablish the conditions for profits and to restore the power of the economic elites.
The Marxist David Harvey argues that this has resulted in the negative freedoms of capitalism becoming predominant. These include: the freedom to exploit others, the freedom to make inordinate gains without service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions for private gain or the freedom to profit from public calamities, etc. The positive freedoms of capitalism such as freedom of speech have become by-products of the capitalist economy. And the only way to sustain this kind of society is through authoritarianism.
Nevertheless, the main yardstick against which the liberation of the Namibian people should be judged is the creation of decent jobs for all. We must understand why this is not happening in the milieu of neo-liberal capitalism. The labour-hire companies are a symptom of a larger system.