Monday 19 April 2021
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Guarding Wealth Yet Discriminately Rewarded: Deadlock in Security Wage Negotiations

The Labour Resource and Research Institute did a study on the security sector during 2012.  The study revealed dire working conditions, which workers of the security sector endure.   For instance guards worked excessive hours, which are not paid for as over time. This is despite legal requirement which dictate that excess above statutory hours be treated as overtime and rewarded accordingly.  The study also found that guards worked for more than eight hours in order to accumulate time for payment without break.

It was also reported in the study that guards were exposed to health and safety hazards at their place of employment.  Accordingly, it should be noted that there is no danger allowance in the sector despite the risks that are imminent.   Respectively, about 30% of employees in this sector were not registered with Social Security Commission at the time of the study in reference. It is also important to note that the security sector has a minimum wage.  The current minimum wage of the sector is N$7.00 per hour. For the sake of this discussion let us ask: What are the workers of sector asking for in the current bargain negotiations that reached deadlock?  In order to make sense of the matter let us consider the options on offer.  The bargaining bodies want an increase of N$13.50 over a rolling two-year cycle as minimum wage as one option or N$12.00 over a one-year cycle.

Over a rolling period of three years the employers are only willing to pay N$7.20 for entry level and N$8.05 for those that have worked for more than a year as first option during the current year.   The second option will have no increment for entry-level workers and only N$8.80 for those that have been in service for a year and more during the second cycle.   The third option is N$8.80 for entry level and N$9.50 for those that has been in service longer during the last year of cycle. Our current analysis suggest that since the minimum wage was put in place the amount paid to workers per hour has always been below price for a loaf of bread.  We all know what a loaf of bread costs at the moment in Windhoek let alone in regions.  We have reliably learned that employers in this sector like all others used a reason of: “the economy is not well” and that the sector is not regulated.  We beg to ask whether this is really a matter of economy, which is not well or it is that worker worth in the sector is not valued despite contributions they make to this lucrative yet dangerous industry?

Should wealth of those that afford security services be guarded at the peril of workers in this sector?  Who in the sector did not do their homework well at the time of pricing for services they would provide in order to afford proper wages?  Should this inefficiency render work in the security sector cheap and exploitative?  Accordingly, should an issue of sector regulation deter employers to reward workers fairly or wages that are above the market price of bread loaf? Let us shelf the issue of industry regulation for another time.  At the time of writing this opinion we have reliably learned that negotiations are deadlocked.  Both trade unions and employers would not budge in order to reach an amicable compromise acceptable to all.   We have also reliably learned that during this time that negotiations have stalled as a process certain employers have began to coercively make employees sign for a pittance of N$7.50 beyond a course that was started.

This on the side process started by the employers can only suggest one thing: total disregard of a legal process.  How could one begin a parallel process which is coercive anyway when another one was still pending?  The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation as custodian of this law and labour sector has not pronounced itself on this grave practice and this is a serious cause for concern.  The turbulent activities that prevail in the security sector added to those that happened in other sectors such as fishing, education and broadcasting recently, suggests labour relations that are not sound.  This situation warrants a serious reflection by the Ministry and stakeholders so as to find a way on how deal with labour relations in general.

Authored by Dr. Michael Uusiku Akuupa. For Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI)

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