….Highlights their importance in poverty fight
Hundreds of workers and the public at large in Namibia joined other workers in the world to commemorate the International Workers Day this year. The event was marked in Oshakati last Sunday under the theme “Workers demand effective protection on Health and Safety.”
President Hage Geingob graced the occasion and addressed the workers, narrating some of the achievements of government and paid tribute to all our working men and women across the country who lost their lives while carrying out their duties during the past year.
“I would like to begin by May their souls rest in peace. There is a saying that reads as follows, “Without labour nothing prospers.” What this means is that pursuing prosperity is futile without you, our workers. You are the fire that ignites the engine of our economy,” he said.
Workers across the country have over the years decried the paltry wages accorded to them despite the intense labor they have to do. Others have also lamented the poor working conditions under which they are expected to work with little safety apparatuses in place.
Geingob asserted that workers are and will always be Namibia’s most valuable asset in the fight against poverty and in the pursuit of a prosperous future.
“As you are all aware, our history of struggle started with the workers, who at that time had to endure the humiliation of the inhumane labour contract system which was implemented by the South African Apartheid Government,” he said. Because of our experience with the deplorable conditions under which workers were placed, upon attainment of independence, Geingob said: “We introduced the Namibian Labour Act to amongst others to regulate basic terms and conditions of employment and protect employees from unfair labour practices.”
Namibia’s Labour Act clearly stipulates the rules and regulations with regards to the health, safety and welfare of employees and is clear about what is expected from both employers and employees in this regard.
But despite employers being obligated to provide a safe working environment, which does not cause risk to the health of employees and has adequate facilitates for the safety of employees, several transgressions continue to be recorded in this regard. “During my consultations with stakeholders in the economic sector and at several high profile platforms, I have expressed my sentiments regarding the welfare of workers in Namibia. It is my conviction that all workers should be treated in a humane and respectable manner,” stressed Geingob. He added: “Therefore, all employers, from business owners to farm owners, must ensure that workers are provided with adequate facilities such as housing and sanitation, for the protection of their health and safety and for the respect of their human dignity.”
Geingob promised Namibian workers that: “as your President I will ensure that your human dignity is always protected. As a farm owner myself, I have endeavored to lead by example and ensure that workers on my farm are provided with decent housing, running water and toilet facilities. I challenge all others to follow suit without delay.”
Geingob also assured workers that he is following up on reports regarding workplace safety around the country. It seems that there are a number of business people and companies, both local and foreign that believe it is fine to cut corners and subject our workers to unhygienic, hazardous and dangerous conditions in the workplace, the President noted.
“This situation is even exacerbated by the fact that a number of our workers have lost their lives or are suffering serious health consequences because of these conditions,” he said while at the same time vowing that appropriate measures will be put in place to prevent such situations and incidents in the future.
Geingob warned businesses saying: “We create a conducive environment for business in which you have opportunities to conduct your business safely and successfully. Just as Government provides you with a safe environment characterized by peace and stability, in which you can do business, you should provide the workers with a safe environment in which they can help you do business.”
Geingob also warned the workers to maintain vigilance and not be led astray by misguided individuals who try to use emotive issues such as land and labour relations for the purpose of causing instability.
Geingob urged NUNW as well as other affiliated Unions to integrate the Harambee Plan into their plans and align their strategic objectives with its five pillars, adding that: “The Harambee ideals must permeate through all sectors of our economy and amongst all stakeholders.”
“Therefore, put aside divisions amongst yourselves which has created a situation in which various unions are opposing each other, not for the benefit of workers, but for the benefit of competing egos. Think Namibia first before you think of your own interests,” he urged.