By: Eba Kandovazu
Businessman Hans Namutewa, who threatened to close down Metro Windhoek if the company did not improve employees’ salaries and working conditions, says that he is not afraid of the legal implications his actions may cause.
A customer of Metro for eight years, Namutewa told The Villager that he was forced to approach the retailer’s management after consistently receiving bad customer service from the store’s general workers. He claimed that he occasionally had to pay workers to assist him properly to get assistance.
This comes as the labour ministry, on Wednesday, condemned the increase of the barging of unregistered union members into businesses unannounced.
The ministry’s spokesperson Maria Hedimbi said that although the ministry is not legally allowed to open cases against those doing so, business owners have the right to ignore or not recognise the demands of such persons or their presence at their premises.
She said that the ministry has workplace inspectors who conduct their inspections at various workplaces, adding that they are legally permitted to enter workplaces unannounced.
She explained that the Labour Act, Act No. 11 of 2007, regulates the Namibia labour market and makes provisions for establishing trade unions to deal with collective bargaining matters.
She noted that the same Act clearly distinguishes an authorised representative.
“The law is very clear that an employer must not recognise a trade union as an exclusive bargaining agent in terms of the Labour Act unless such is registered with the Labour Commissioner and represent the majority of the employees in the bargaining unit,” she explained.
The ministry also warned employers, employees and the aspiring exclusive bargaining agents that anything contrary to the law becomes illegal and may lead to legal implications if a party decides otherwise.
“Contrary to that defeats the purpose of effectively mitigating labour disputes and has the potential to undermine the legally established avenues for systematic prevention and resolution of labour disputes and the promotion of harmonious labour relations in the country,” she stressed.
According to Namutewa, he discovered that Metro employees are underpaid, which has made them bitter. He further said for the eight years he has been shopping at Metro, their service has been wrong.
“They will tell you that they won’t help you because they don’t get paid. That is why I decided to approach management to ask why they are not paying the people, to demand that they pay the workers.
“I explained that what they were doing was wrong because their workers could even get injured. Their customers are mainly alcohol buyers, so some customers may come to the store drunk, and if bad service is received, an argument may erupt, and someone could get injured.”
Some staff members don’t care at all. They even insult you, and you won’t get any assistance if you don’t give them money. You have to make sure you carry extra money to pay them,” Namutewa said.
According to him, Metro informed him in writing that the workers’ issues would be addressed in two months.