Labour research expert and activist, Hebert Jauch, has described the high court judgment which ruled against the Presidential proclamation to stop dismissals and retrenchment during this pandemic time as a massive blow for workers.
Jauch has cautioned that the judgment may have the effect of setting the dominoes on massive retrenchment as more companies feel emboldened the decision of the judges.
“I did not have the chance to hear the judgment in full, but I can say very clearly that this is a blow for Namibian workers because it reinforces the power imbalance between worker and employers. Already we have seen over the last few weeks and months have employers have resorted to mass retrenchments even I those sectors that have not been directly affected by the lock-down. This is now almost a free pass for employers to continue retrenchment on a mass scale. It sends absolutely a wrong signal at the wrong time, it is siding with the strong and powerful against the weak and poor,” said Jauch.
Jauch added that workers’ recourse to fighting retrenchments is now weakened.
Lawyer Eben De Klerk has however said that while the judgment upholds Namibia’s constitutionalism, it had no consequence.
“It’s a big victory in that our constitution was upheld by the courts and that our rule of law has been preserved in this matter. We must understand that if we live in a democratic society there is has to be limits put on everybody including government and we must operate within those limitations and fort government to attempt to put those coercions on employers to the point where they would go bankrupt just to comply with laws that should not be acceptable in a free society and we welcome the judgment,” said the top lawyer.
Namibia Employers Federation Secretary General, Daan Straus, said hey welcomed the judgment adding that he was yet to get the judgment document itself to look into the reasons laid out by the judges.
“The high court ruled in favour of the NEF. Now we only read the court order and we await the court judgement. There is a rule of law in Namibia. It is in the best interest of employers and employees and we are much relieved that the panel of judges ruled the way they did,” he said.
The president, via the proclamations, sought to bandage the economy from bleeding jobs as the coronavirus pandemic pummels companies into shutting down, dismissing workers or cutting their salaries.
The effect of the proclamation put the companies in an uncomfortable position leading to flawed negotiations which culminated into litigation.
Jauch has said that the judgement itself is an embarrassment on the President while it is now up for the unions, the labour ministry and the president to appeal it.