Legitimate Concerns About Labour Hire

Legitimate Concerns About Labour Hire

AN NBC-TV ‘Talk of the Nation’ programme, on the heels of an article in The Namibian, this week focused on the controversial subject of labour-hire companies, with some of the panellists calling for an outright ban of this concept.

The concerns are legitimate. Public attention was focused on labour hire with a report in The Namibian recently in which the branch manager for African Personnel Services (APS) was interviewed in the wake of a protest by some employees at a soft-drink bottling plant in the capital.Justifying the concept of labour hire as practised by his company, the APS spokesperson claimed that they operated in keeping with the Labour Act and that theirs was not another form of contract labour, as has been alleged by opponents of this practice.The NBC ‘Talk of the Nation’ show had a comprehensive panel of opinion from, among others, the unions, APS, Government, the Employers’ Federation and the Labour Research Institute.Putting the position of Government vis-a-vis the ‘new’ Labour Act, lawyer Vicky ya Toivo said both the labour-hire company and the employer that uses its services could be held liable in cases of labour law contraventions on workers’ rights.The new Labour Act, therefore, does not take a position on the undesirability of such companies while the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and other unions have called for a ban on labour hire.Of the arguments put for and against the concept, it would seem that those calling for a ban have a stronger case, and there is no doubt that such companies are doing little for job creation itself in this country.The NUNW, through General Secretary Evilastus Kaaronda, has already made the call for Government to scrap all laws governing the establishment of labour-hire companies, and to declare their activities ‘illegal’ in Namibia.It stands to reason that an employer budgets a certain amount for employment of a worker or workers, and that the latter will get less than they would otherwise due to the ‘middle man’ status of the labour-hire companies which take a portion of the earnings.Certain companies would undoubtedly prefer to make use of labour-hire companies in an attempt to duck their own responsibilities towards workers in terms of the Labour code itself.For their part, APS claim to pay Social Security for their registered workers as well as providing for sick and other leave, and transportation, In terms of the larger picture in Namibia, and the necessity of job creation in order to staunch the growing unemployment rate, it is obviously preferable for companies to employ their own workforces because the economy, and socio-economic circumstances of most Namibians, would benefit more in this manner.Labour hire is certainly wide open to a return to the days of exploitation of workers, something that we should fight against at all costs.APS may argue that they are doing everything in accordance with the law, as their spokesperson told The Namibian, but the recent incidents of such hired workers protesting the lack of wage agreements as well as non-payment of salaries, show that all is not as well as has been claimed by the protagonists of labour hire.We would urge that this public debate be taken further.Articles in the print media as well as one of the better ‘Talk of the Nation’ debates in a long time have helped shed light on this practice, and we need to go further and look seriously at the implications in terms of the Labour Act, and revise it where necessary.We would urge strong caution against companies whose main motive appears to be profit at the expense of the unemployed and lower-paid workers, rather than any serious attempt to create jobs with adequate benefits for Namibians.Public attention was focused on labour hire with a report in The Namibian recently in which the branch manager for African Personnel Services (APS) was interviewed in the wake of a protest by some employees at a soft-drink bottling plant in the capital.Justifying the concept of labour hire as practised by his company, the APS spokesperson claimed that they operated in keeping with the Labour Act and that theirs was not another form of contract labour, as has been alleged by opponents of this practice.The NBC ‘Talk of the Nation’ show had a comprehensive panel of opinion from, among others, the unions, APS, Government, the Employers’ Federation and the Labour Research Institute.Putting the position of Government vis-a-vis the ‘new’ Labour Act, lawyer Vicky ya Toivo said both the labour-hire company and the employer that uses its services could be held liable in cases of labour law contraventions on workers’ rights.The new Labour Act, therefore, does not take a position on the undesirability of such companies while the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and other unions have called for a ban on labour hire.Of the arguments put for and against the concept, it would seem that those calling for a ban have a stronger case, and there is no doubt that such companies are doing little for job creation itself in this country.The NUNW, through General Secretary Evilastus Kaaronda, has already made the call for Government to scrap all laws governing the establishment of labour-hire companies, and to declare their activities ‘illegal’ in Namibia.It stands to reason that an employer budgets a certain amount for employment of a worker or workers, and that the latter will get less than they would otherwise due to the ‘middle man’ status of the labour-hire companies which take a portion of the earnings.Certain companies would undoubtedly prefer to make use of labour-hire companies in an attempt to duck their own responsibilities towards workers in terms of the Labour code itself.For their part, APS claim to pay Social Security for their registered workers as well as providing for sick and other leave, and transportation, In terms of the larger picture in Namibia, and the necessity of job creation in order to staunch the growing unemployment rate, it is obviously preferable for companies to employ their own workforces because the economy, and socio-economic circumstances of most Namibians, would benefit more in this manner.Labour hire is certainly wide open to a return to the days of exploitation of workers, something that we should fight against at all costs.APS may argue that they are doing everything in accordance with the law, as their spokesperson told The Namibian, but the recent incidents of such hired workers protesting the lack of wage agreements as well as non-payment of salaries, show that all is not as well as has been claimed by the protagonists of labour hire.We would urge that this public debate be taken further.Articles in the print media as well as one of the better ‘Talk of the Nation’ debates in a long time have helped shed light on this practice, and we need to go further and look seriously at the implications in terms of the Labour Act, and revise it where necessary.We would urge strong caution against companies whose main motive appears to be profit at the expense of the unemployed and lower-paid workers, rather than any serious attempt to create jobs with adequate benefits for Namibians.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News