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Wednesday 24 October 2018
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Workers before investors

Pro-investor legislation has over the years flourished at the expense of this country’s workers.
The situation was made even worse by the fact that trade unions in the country’s have stopped roaring, many resorting to simply barking like dogs.
The case of Shoprite dragging its underpaid workers to court is a classic example of how the laws of this country-or lack thereof and the toothless trade unions-continue to suppress the working class.
Trade unions are in bed with political parties and legislation is crafted to keep investors in the country, regardless of how they conduct themselves.
Investors such as Shoprite and Chinese in this country cannot be blamed for maximizing on profits because the watchdog has gone to sleep.
The labour disputes between Shoprite/Checkers and its employees is clear testimony that true leadership in this country is yet to prevail. The issue has been going on for nearly three years now and the leadership was unable to resolve the impasse.
The labour ministry has simply resorted to mere rhetoric instead of taking bold action.
The rather sardonic part is the leadership is in the know of the injustices meted out by investors, but the misplaced fear of investors leaving the country has forced them to look on while the people they ought to protect, suffer. It is perplexing that all of a sudden leaders can no longer relate to the same people whom they invited to rallies to vote them into power not so long ago.
The situation on the ground is dire, workers get paid about N$1 200 a month with no benefits to work for long hours. The reality on the ground is that half of Shoprite workforce is made up of employees on a ‘permanent part-time’ contract for a period of more than 10 years.
If this is not enough evidence to highlight the injustices against the Namibian brothers and sisters at Shoprite, a 2014 labour inspection found discrepancies with regard to contract workers and recommendations were made on how this should be corrected.
However, Shoprite has ignored the recommendations and the Labour Ministry has not attempted to enforce the findings of its own labour inspector, who authored the report.
The Chinese are doing the same thing and they too are untouchable like Shoprite. All is well on paper, but the situation on the ground tells a different story.
What Shoprite is demonstrating is the act of private capital trying to maximize profit at all cost because peaceful Namibians will do nothing. Shoprite does not care what happens to the employees, hence their bullish attitude.
The labor ministry recently pronounced itself on the matter but we are yet to see them walk the talk. The highest office is still to say a thing on the matter. Parliament has become a gentlemen’s club where ineffectiveness is disguised as decorum. No one wants to hold Shoprite or the Chinese, who are not only evading tax, but also paying Namibians a mere N$350 salary a month, accountable.
Trade unions have been added to the exploitive employers’ WhatsApp group and they have long stopped acting in the interest of the employees. The situation is so bad that civil society organizations and activists have to step in and fill the gap left by the unions.
Shoprite’s treatment of workers also made headlines in Zambia in 2013, when the Zambian government threatened to withdraw the retailer’s licence after it dismissed employees for embarking on a wage strike.
It is my hope that the anti-Shoprite campaign sends a message to potential labour law violators and those currently violating such laws that the abuse of workers will not be tolerated in this country.
It is high time our government follows in the footsteps of Zambia which in 2013 forced Shoprite to improve wages by 34%.
Despite the force exerted by the Zambian government on Shoprite to increase the wages, the retail giant did not flee the country as many had feared, it remains a key employer in that country.
What stops Namibia from doing the same?




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