The content of a report by the Minimum Wage Commission, has been in the hands of Labour Minister Utoni Nujoma for more than a year without action.
In February 2021, Nujoma appointed the Commission and tasked it with investigating the possibility of introducing the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
Upon the completion of the investigation, the Commission then made recommendations to Minister Nujoma.
Speaking to The Villager, the Ministry’s spokesperson Maria Hedimbi, said the Minister will ultimately decide whether to release the full report to the public or just a portion of it.
“It is public information, and we are saying it is a national minimum wage, so of course information will be made public. But it also depends on the Minister whether to release the report fully to the public or just part of it because the public made their contribution to that report,” she said.
Hedimbi stated that Nujoma has read the report and will seek additional advice on it.
“What will follow next is for him to consult further with social partners because there is something that he needs clarity on. So the public will be informed as soon as the consultations are done.”
However, she said if the recommendations in the report need to be implemented, they must be presented to Cabinet and Parliament for approval.
When asked about when the consultations will start, Hedimbi said the Ministry is hoping it will happen this quarter.
“I don’t have a specific date here with me, but arrangements are in place for the Minister to consult the social partners,” she said.
Hedimbi noted the work of the commission has concluded, as they submitted their report in March 2022.
The NMW ideas and predictions, the Minimum Wage Implementation Strategy/Plan, the Review and Adjustment of the NMW, the Enforcement of the NMW, and any recommendations the Commission deems suitable, are anticipated to be included in the report.
There are just three sector-based collective agreements on minimum wages and conditions of employment, including one for domestic workers, security, construction, and agricultural sectors.
Other sectors are still left in the dark (in terms of minimum wages) and are solely dependent on the agreement reached through a collective bargaining system between an employer and employees.
The commission has given recommendations to the Ministry, according to the Commission’s Chairperson, Marius Kudumo, but he has withheld the information.
Kudumo said it is now in the hands of the Ministry to take further steps on the submitted recommendations.
“I can’t speak on the report as our task was to investigate and report back to the Minister with recommendations. So what we have found and recommended is basically in the report with the Minister. How they want to deal with the report is up to the Ministry,” he said.
The Commission, which was appointed in February 2021, was anticipated to conclude its task by 31 August 2021, after which it would submit the report to the Minister not later than 30 September 2021.
The report, Kudumo said, was submitted in 2022, adding that it was done so within the time frame it was given.
The Wages Commission held public hearings in Windhoek in June 2021, paying close attention to its mandate.
Some areas visited were Aussenkehr and Keetmanshoop in the //Kharas region and Gobabis in the Omaheke region.
The Commission also spoke with a variety of experts and stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade, and SME Development, the Social Security Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Namibia Statistics Agency, the National Planning Commission, the Labour Resource and Research Institute, and the Namibia University of Science and Technology.
The difficulties faced by workers in emerging agricultural industries like charcoal, non-compliance with current wage agreements, and the challenge of balancing the setting of a minimum wage in the context of high unemployment and slow economic growth were highlighted during its last public hearing held at Gobabis on 27 May 2021.
The proposed national minimum wages seek to increase pay, particularly for low-paid workers, increase individual and household incomes, lessen poverty, and promote a reasonable standard of living.
According to labour expert Herbert Jauch, the Ministry touring the nation and seeking input, gave some people the chance to take part in those consultations.
“I’m not sure why the report is being withheld at this time; perhaps the Ministry has to fill in a few more details before making it public,” Jauch said.
Jauch stressed the necessity for a minimum wage in Namibia to help workers cover their basic requirements and escape the cycle of sacrificial wages.