The Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation has called on the mining industry to come up with contracts that can lessen the impact of mine closures given the volatility of mineral commodities.
Utoni Nujoma said this as he delivered the keynote address at the 12th Congress of the Mineworkers Union Of Namibia last week.
Nujoma said that since the adoption of the Labor Act 2007, his Ministry has encouraged the Chamber of Mines and Industry and industrial relations practitioners to seek industry-wide agreements on certain issues or to harmonise contractual areas in key areas where this is possible.
However, “to date, employers have not shown interest in such an approach”he revealed.
He said that given the volatile nature of the international market for certain minerals and the concerns of workers over job security, it will be ideal to have better contracts that take care of workers.
“I would however encourage your industry to negotiate contractual provisions that can mitigate the impact of retrenchments or mine closures before such are on the horizon,” Nujoma suggested.
One of the country’s biggest mines is closing down while eight others are under care.
According to Nujoma, trade unions can be a strong voice in advocating legislative and policy reforms on a wide variety of fronts that can improve the lives of the vast majority of our people.
He said if trade unions are to grow, they need to be part of the struggles of the people on many fronts.
Nujoma stated that the interests of workers, the poor and marginalised people should be understood to be inseparable, thus trade unions need to work together to revive and refashion a trade union movement that can represent not only formal sector workers, but informal workers and the unemployed.
He said unions need to create platforms that will promote alliances, unity and transformation in the struggle against poverty and inequality.
Nujoma availed himself for consultations on any relevant matter and technical assistance, where needed, but said he will involve himself directly in the arena of collective bargaining except to the extent permitted by law in disputes of national interest.
Nujoma attacked other organisations that are standing up for employees without his Ministry’s blessing, saying they are politicking labour issues.
“I observe that a number of politicians are trying to capitalise on the struggles of Namibian workers and to derail their trade unions” Nujoma stated.
He said the self-styled leaders of workers have not tried to organise workers into trade unions, “but prefer to put on colourful costumes and stage media events for their own interests”.
According to his ministry, these organisations 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.
“What then, is their motive?”, Nujoma asked.
According to his Ministry, the politicians and self-styled workers’ leaders have seized upon various labour disputes, including lawful strikes, as a means to bring attention to themselves for political reasons.
They are using workers only for the purpose of advancing their political careers and canvassing for future votes.
Nujoma said the status quo calls for the need to strengthen unions, to expand union representation and to utilise or strengthen the procedures afforded by law that protect workers and support their rights.Email: email@example.com