The Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Utoni Nujoma, said he has observed a number of politicians who try to capitalize on the struggles of Namibian workers and derail their trade unions.
Nujoma referred to his fellow politicians as ‘self-styled leaders of workers’ who have personal intentions to not organize workers into trade unions but rather to put on colorful costumes and stage media events for their own interests.
The Minister made these remarks on Friday while he was addressing the 12th Congress of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN), in Ongwediva.
“I note that self-styled leaders have never expressed an interest in representing the majority of workers of any employer, in handling their daily grievances or in engaging in collective bargaining,” Nujoma said.
The Minister further stated that their method of working is to motivate workers to take illegal actions to disrupt employer establishments in front of the eye of a camera while exposing workers to possible loss of employment for misconduct.
He reiterated that the politicians ‘self-styled workers’ leaders have seized upon various labour disputes, including lawful strikes, as a means to bring attention to themselves for political reasons.
“They are using workers only for the purpose of advancing their political careers and canvassing for future votes,” Nujoma stressed.
However, the Minister said the actions of self-styled workers’ leaders emphasize all the more the need to strengthen comrades affiliated trade unions, to expand union representation and to utilize or strengthen the procedures afforded by law that protect workers and support their rights.
As contained in the 2018 Namibian Labour Force Survey Report, Nujoma said the majority of workers in the mining and trade sectors lack union representation.
“The most recent statistics on trade union density are contained in the 2018 Namibian Labour Force Survey Report. While overall trade union membership is reported at 20.6 percent, the trade union membership in mining and quarrying is reported at 45.1 percent, with only 4.1 percent in electricity and related industries,” he indicated.
Nujoma also emphasized that the Labour Act established an industrial relations system where priority is placed on good faith negotiations between trade unions and employers as the best means to resolve collective bargaining disputes.
He urged the MUN leaders to refrain from power struggles that weaken the effectiveness of the union, adding that the building blocks of unity are adherence to the constitution, transparency and open communication with members in the operation of the trade union structures at all levels.
Epafras Mukwiilongo, leader of the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), in response “It is only Swapo leaders who capitalize on the struggles of Namibian workers and use trade unions for their personal interests. Who are the self-styled politicians? It is Swapo leaders, and no one else,” Mukwiilongo said.
Meanwhile, Revolutionary Union member George Kambala said Nujoma is a failed politician who has forgotten how those trade unions were formed, saying they have now lost the concept of workers’ representation.
Kambala said the workers and Namibians have appreciated the efforts to get independence brought by elders but workers are now being exploited at the expense of the same politicians, who he says claim to be clean.