‘Some politicians are using worker issues to campaign for votes’

PROUD … Deputy minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation Hafeni Ndemula (in blue cap) cuts the ribbon of the newly inaugurated Nafau Erongo regional office at Walvis Bay. Photo: Contributed

Deputy minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation Hafeni Ndemula has spoken out against some politicians that are trying to capitalise on the struggles of workers and derail trade unions.

“What are the motives of the opposition politicians who advise workers to bypass their trade unions?

“Why is it that these self-styled leaders of workers have not tried to organise workers into trade unions rather than putting on colourful costumes and staging media events?”

Ndemula was speaking at the inauguration of the upgraded Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) head office at Walvis Bay on Saturday.

“I note that they have never expressed an interest in representing the majority of workers of any employer, in handling their daily grievances or in engaging in collective bargaining. Their method of working is to try to get workers to leave work illegally in order to disrupt employer establishments in front of the eye of a camera, while exposing workers to loss of pay and possible loss of employment for misconduct,” Ndemula said.

He said the politicians/self-styled workers’ leaders have caused labour disputes to bring attention to themselves for political reasons, using workers only for the purpose of advancing their political careers and campaigning for votes.

“Since other trade unions are growing in the fishing sector, it is my hope and wish to see genuine trade unions work together to build a strong alliance between themselves for the benefit of the working class.

Through that collaboration, they can work towards the establishment of the Sectoral Fishing Council to harmonise the issue of a minimum wage, health and safety, wage increments, promotions and to strengthen collective bargaining generally.”

Ndemula served as Nafau’s first regional coordinator from 1988 to 1991 in an office that operated from his parents’ house.

A small office was later built, which has served Nafau to date.

Ndemula said the inauguration of the new office presents a golden opportunity and incentive to improve service delivery.

He applauded the union for its successes in collective bargaining in a number of industries.

He further called on trade unions to unite in bringing more workers into the trade union movement, and not to raid each other’s established bargaining units.

Nafau president Mike Karupu said: “We appreciate our members for having demonstrated their dedication and commitment to the union.

It resulted in the implementation of our strategic plans, which aimed at building regional offices across the country. We accord our members facilities in which they can learn, plan and develop regional strategies to protect, defend and unite all workers in the food and allied industries, with the motto that an injury to one is an injury to all.”

He reminded the labour ministry that the Erongo region and Namibia at large are facing some challenges, including shortages of arbitrators in the Office of the Labour Commissioner, which results in labour disputes taking up to two years, and low salaries paid to their members, among others.

The office was renovated for about N$800 000. The union represents about 3 500 members in the region.

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