Labour hire fight rages onBy: JO-MARÉ DUDDY
WHILE workers are preparing for a protest when labour-hire firm African Personnel Services (APS) drags Government to court on Monday, the Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF) yesterday accused Government of dancing to the union’s tune.
There has now been two weeks of mudslinging between the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and the NEF.
Commenting on Government’s decision to implement law amendments on labour hire this month, NEF Secretary General Tim Parkhouse released a statement saying “it appears that Government decided to follow an expediently short-term ideological route, dictated by the unions”.
He said Government chose this path, rather than to listen to the “voice of reason” that had been debated by the tripartite body consisting of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the NEF and unions.
Parkhouse said the tripartite body, including NUNW representatives, advised Labour Minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko in October 2010 not to implement the drafted amendments “as they were tantamount to banning labour hire”.
“Government is totally unjust to now try to place the blame on employers. Government should have the courage to admit to their errors and with the tripartite consultation rewrite this piece of legislation,” he said.
Parkhouse’s tongue-lashing followed NUNW Secretary General Evilastus Kaaronda’s press conference on Wednesday, where the union threw its weight behind Government. It accused the NEF of creating “pandemonium” through a “misinformation drive”. Kaaronda called the NEF “audacious” and claimed its “misinformation drive” was “to lay off workers just to teach Government and trade unions a lesson”.
Two weeks ago, Ngatjizeko also accused the NEF of unleashing a “disinformation campaign intended to frighten employers and to hold the Namibian nation hostage”. He bashed the employers’ federation, saying the NEF “claimed, as it often did when Government attempted to strengthen protections of workers, that the new law was certain to cause unemployment”.
APS owner Ranga Haikali told The Namibian earlier this week that more than 7 000 of the industry’s more than 10 000 casual workers will be left jobless with the implementation of the new law. He said APS, a member of the NEF, faces liquidation if its eleventh-hour bid to stop the implementation fails. APS’ urgent application to halt the new law goes to court on Monday.
Kaaronda yesterday told The Namibian that he expects to be briefed today by the various unions on the progress of the planned protest at court on Monday.
The new law stipulates that when a company uses a casual worker from a labour hire agency, that worker becomes an employee of the company. As such, the worker enjoys the same rights as other employees of the company under the Labour Act, including protection against unfair dismissal and the choice to belong to a trade union.
Ngatjizeko maintains that the amendments don’t “prohibit, but rather regulate the practice of labour hire”. The NEF insists that it effectively bans labour hire.
Parkhouse yesterday said the NEF has “always called for smart regulation [and] not over-regulation”, which is what Government is now implementing.
Kaaronda on Wednesday said the NEF was “the one who called for the regulation of labour hire and that labour hire is regulated, they simply don’t like the nature of the regulation”.