Debate on labour hire rages on

Debate on labour hire rages on

THE passing of the new Labour Bill in the National Council (NC) last week has not put a damper on the debate around a clause outlawing labour-hire companies.

A public lecture by Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) Director Herbert Jauch at Unam on Wednesday saw the two main positions on labour hire go head to head. Jauch argued that labour hire should be seen mainly as the application of the capitalist logic of pursuing higher profits at all costs, and by any means necessary.There are about 11 labour-hire companies currently operating in Namibia, Jauch said, the biggest of which is African Personnel Services (APS), which has between 6 000 and 10 000 contract workers.Companies, he said, have a myriad of reasons for making use of labour-hire companies, including the fact that outsourcing work significantly reduces the impact that strikes have on their businesses.Outsourcing labour basically means outsourcing disciplinary issues and avoiding trade unions, he said, while allowing these companies to concentrate on their core business.Labour hire, Jauch said, constitutes a threat to permanent employment, as it is becoming a very popular alternative to employing workers in lower skills categories.”Some companies have blatantly stated that they use labour hire to stimulate organisational change,” Jauch said, “meaning that workers are always on their toes because they don’t know whether they’ll have a job next week.”While labour-hire companies often claim to be creating jobs for unemployed people, Jauch contended that this is not true, and that most of the jobs they “create” are actually created by the actual company to which workers are sent.”Overall, labour-hire companies create fewer than 150 administrative and managerial jobs.The client companies, some of whom have indicated that they would employ fewer workers if there were no labour-hire companies, create employment,” Jauch said.The main person opposing Jauch’s views on Wednesday was Mike Hill, Executive Director of the Pupkewitz Group, who argued that this process of outsourcing labour was in fact a direct response to legislation that is too strict on employers, as well as to an inefficient Labour Ministry.Criminalising labour hire won’t stop these companies from operating, Hill said, but would only drive them underground.Some of these companies have strong links to Government officials, especially in the Labour Ministry, Hill said.”Trade unions can’t bargain for leave any more.It’s all given in the law.It (Labour Act) is a trick to steal power from the unions”, Hill said in response to comments that labour hire was a capitalist trick to exploit workers and make profit.He suggested that a better alternative to criminalising labour hire was to regulate it more strictly.This would mean introducing enforceable regulations to ensure that labour-hire workers’ wages and benefits are not below those paid to permanent workers who perform similar tasks.The Namibian Employers Federation (NEF) told The Namibian earlier this week that, despite the new bill being this close to being enacted, they would continue to lobby for the legalisation of labour hire.”Even if it does go through, it is our right to lobby.In fact, the old law came into effect in 1992 and we started lobbying for it to be changed in 1994,” NEF Secretary General Tim Parkhouse said.The Labour Bill is currently awaiting signing by the President, after which it will be published in the Government Gazette with a date indicating when it will come into force.Jauch argued that labour hire should be seen mainly as the application of the capitalist logic of pursuing higher profits at all costs, and by any means necessary.There are about 11 labour-hire companies currently operating in Namibia, Jauch said, the biggest of which is African Personnel Services (APS), which has between 6 000 and 10 000 contract workers.Companies, he said, have a myriad of reasons for making use of labour-hire companies, including the fact that outsourcing work significantly reduces the impact that strikes have on their businesses.Outsourcing labour basically means outsourcing disciplinary issues and avoiding trade unions, he said, while allowing these companies to concentrate on their core business.Labour hire, Jauch said, constitutes a threat to permanent employment, as it is becoming a very popular alternative to employing workers in lower skills categories.”Some companies have blatantly stated that they use labour hire to stimulate organisational change,” Jauch said, “meaning that workers are always on their toes because they don’t know whether they’ll have a job next week.”While labour-hire companies often claim to be creating jobs for unemployed people, Jauch contended that this is not true, and that most of the jobs they “create” are actually created by the actual company to which workers are sent.”Overall, labour-hire companies create fewer than 150 administrative and managerial jobs.The client companies, some of whom have indicated that they would employ fewer workers if there were no labour-hire companies, create employment,” Jauch said. The main person opposing Jauch’s views on Wednesday was Mike Hill, Executive Director of the Pupkewitz Group, who argued that this process of outsourcing labour was in fact a direct response to legislation that is too strict on employers, as well as to an inefficient Labour Ministry.Criminalising labour hire won’t stop these companies from operating, Hill said, but would only drive them underground.Some of these companies have strong links to Government officials, especially in the Labour Ministry, Hill said.”Trade unions can’t bargain for leave any more.It’s all given in the law.It (Labour Act) is a trick to steal power from the unions”, Hill said in response to comments that labour hire was a capitalist trick to exploit workers and make profit.He suggested that a better alternative to criminalising labour hire was to regulate it more strictly.This would mean introducing enforceable regulations to ensure that labour-hire workers’ wages and benefits are not below those paid to permanent workers who perform similar tasks.The Namibian Employers Federation (NEF) told The Namibian earlier this week that, despite the new bill being this close to being enacted, they would continue to lobby for the legalisation of labour hire.”Even if it does go through, it is our right to lobby.In fact, the old law came into effect in 1992 and we started lobbying for it to be changed in 1994,” NEF Secretary General Tim Parkhouse said.The Labour Bill is currently awaiting signing by the President, after which it will be published in the Government Gazette with a date indicating when it will come into force.

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