Workers Unions Should Not Be All Mouth and No Trousers

Asser Nakale

Trade unions are formed to represent the interests of workers in various trades and industries, in both the public and private sectors.

Unions are normally specific to industries and are mandated to represent the collective interests of workers, negotiating with employers on issues such as wages and working conditions.

Workers represented by such unions pay dues.

The extent to which some unions will go to represent and protect the interest of their members is, however, questionable.

There are cases where workers are mistreated by their employers, receive uncompetitive salaries, or work under harsh conditions. Others face unprocedural dismissals.

The reaction of some unions when such scenarios are are, at best, sluggish. Sometimes no action is taken at all.


It is disturbing that organisations whose mandate is to represent the best interests of workers leave them in the lurch.

The most crucial part of a union’s mandate is salary negotiations with employers on behalf of their members.

This is where too many unions are all mouth and no trousers. They become garrulous; words roll off their tongues like there’s no tomorrow.
They say all sorts of things and make all manner of promises about how far they will go to ensure their members get fair increases or more favourable working conditions – until the actual negotiations arrive.

It is unacceptable that 33 years after independence some Namibian workers still suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of employers.
If some unions were to carry out random inspections at members’ workplaces, many would be surprised by the working conditions under which they operate as well as the way workers are treated.

It is worrying that there are also unions which only act when workers eventually decide to demonstrate.

They then engage in lengthy negotiations with employers. Some negotiations do not even yield results.

Workers unions must understand that workers are not interested in being told about procedures and processes involved in bringing about change.
They want action. They want a fair deal.


Too many trade unions need a healthy dose of reality. They need to shake off their lethargy and see the bigger picture.

It does squat to quote articles and the Constitution while workers remain mired in unhappiness and have to grapple with poor working conditions.
The goal should be the satisfaction of workers. It’s not about playing politics. It’s about fairness.

They are called WORKERS’ unions for a reason.

Employees who are members of unions should perhaps consider abandoning unions which do not meet their expectations, or do not heed their demands, or which are only in it for the money.

If workers’ unions were to be asked for annual reports on what they have achieved, some unions might well have nothing to present.

I urge all unions to take the well-being of their workers to heart.

Their priority is to fight – yes, fight – for both decent working conditions and reasonable compensation for the workers they represent.

  • Asser Nakale is an assistant archivist in the ministry of education, Oshikoto Region. This article is written in his personal capacity; Twitter (X): @AsserNakale
    Facebook: Asser LN Nakale; Email:

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