Monthly ‘salaries’ for over 600 workers at the Coast that have been absorbed into the employment ranks of Tunacor, is a double-edged sword. They are to be paid a monthly salary of N$2,500 for four months only. However, haste, pressure and slow development mean that most will be paid for staying at home. There is no work to be done and no facility in which to work. The monthly manna from heaven ends at the end of March. What is the plan when temporary money ends?
A double-edged sword is a benefit that is also a liability. It is something that helps, but also will hurt. Giving people who have nothing, a little bit of something for a short while is a good thing. But, stripping it away after a few months, even if you tell them in advance about the plan, is a painful tease. It could do more harm than good.
The government forced Tunacor to pay salaries to these new employees who have no work. The authorities meant well. Assisting those in need is never completely wrong. After all, government corruption via the alleged Fishrot debacle caused those people to lose their jobs in the first place.
However, the normal policy of no ‘work, no pay’ has been pushed aside. Is that wise in the longer term? Tunacor received an extra quota of fish to expand their business. They have to create additional jobs and finance the absorption of this specific group of workers into their company.
It sounds good; but is it?
Profitably expanding a large company and utilizing more supply is not immediate. Have people read the labour act and talked with the unions about hoops to be jumped through to create a job in Namibia? Is anyone paying attention to world imported fish consumption rates since the pandemic began? Are foreign markets where our fish is sold accepting imports of fish from anywhere right now?
Still, there are many who will argue that having a little money for a short time is better than having none. Is this true or do people wish it to be true? There is a difference.
People spend what they earn. Receiving N$2,500 in ‘salary’ for four months is income. People will immediately consume at that level. When it vanishes at the end of March, the income level will drop precipitously. Are the recipients ready for that?
What is better – waiting until Tunacor has the workspace and production assignments and THEN offer permanent employment, or temporarily giving people money for doing absolutely nothing?
What lesson comes with those who receive money for no work? Ask the many countries around the world struggling for decades to ween people off monthly welfare programs. Temporary programs to give away money to people in need kept being extended because people quickly became dependent on receiving those funds. It would have caused real hardship to strip the money away precipitously. Are we prepared for this possibility?
No matter how many times you tell those receiving the money that it is temporary, they will not accept it. They will protest and complain in March when those paychecks stop coming.
How soon will $2,500 become not enough? If that amount is given for doing nothing how much more will be paid for doing something?
What about the existing Tunacor workers? They are working hard for their money and yet, these others are receiving a monthly salary (maybe at the same level) for doing nothing. The negative social and workforce dynamics of this is incalculable. “If they get a salary for not working, why not me?”
While waiting for Tunacor to establish permanent jobs, the interim, the government should have made flat grants to those workers until Tunacor was ready to take them on permanently
Tunacor stated that it was opening a new facility that has space for 200 and yet, 655 need to be accommodated. How can this be logical?
The ministry of fisheries should have played the role of enforcer to pressure Tunacor to speed up their expansion and monitored the gradual integration of the 600+ workers.
In addition, new incentives to other companies in the industry should have been offered in lieu of a larger quota. These benefits could be linked to how many of that specific group of workers receive real jobs. This could have lightened the load on Tunacor.
Everyone is smiling now; what about in March when the money stops, and no permanent jobs are in play?
In the new year, hopefully, before the N$2,500 rain stops, a permanent solution will be ready to go. Permanent is always better than illusion.