Nam to tighten screws on labour hire

Luderitz – Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has vowed to fight the labour hire system employed by some companies in the country, comparing it to the notorious pre-independence system used to recruit contract labourers by the infamous South West Africa Native Labour Association (Swanla). At a packed May Day rally on Saturday in the southern town of Luderitz, the Namibian leader reiterated his government’s commitment to rooting out the labour hire system – through which workers are employed by an agency and then leased to companies at cost. Namibia had banned the system in 2007 in accordance with its labour law, but was challenged by the Africa Personnel Services – the largest labour hire business in the county in a high court the same year. Government won the court case, but eventually lost out on an appeal by APS in the Supreme court – the court of appeals last year. In its judgement, the Supreme Court struck down the 2007 Labour Act’s section 128 as being unconstitutional. Section 128 is the part of the Labour Act through which the labour hire system was outlawed in Namibia. In the wake of the court’s ruling, Cabinet has decided that the Labour Act be amended to eliminate exploitative aspects of the labour-hire system, said Pohamba. “Some people call it normal. We say selling someone else in order to make money is not normal and not good at all…this is a system I hate to this moment as I also suffered under a similar system before independence,” fumed Pohamba. In terms of the Cabinet decision, the Labour Act should be changed to enforce equal pay for labour-hire employees and permanent employees doing the same sort of work. Labour-hire employees should also be entitled to the same fringe benefits as permanent employees. A second envisaged change to the law will entitle labour-hire employees to written employment contracts that are signed by both the labour-hire company that the employees are attached to and the user company to which the labour-hire company provides the employees to perform work. The Labour Act will further be changed to prohibit the use of labour hire during strikes or lockouts in which non-labour-hire employees have been retrenched, it was announced. The intended amendments to the Act must also clarify the position of seasonal and temporary employees, the Cabinet decided. It further decided that with the change in the law labour hire must be properly defined to apply only to employees in the labour-hire system and not to bona fide subcontractors and independent contractors as well.

May 2010
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