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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Namibia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Namibia, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec6328.html [accessed 31 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 2,200,000
Capital: Windhoek
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

A miners' union leader was sacked for his activism, while six fishing company workers were arrested for defying an injunction that effectively prevented them from picketing. Although basic trade union rights are secured, excessive restrictions apply to the right to strike.

Trade union rights in law

Problems remain in the labour legislation despite recent improvements. The Constitution and the 2007 Labour Act guarantee freedom of association, but exclude prison staff. In addition, the Labour Commissioner may cancel the registration of a trade union if it fails to comply with its legal obligations, although the decision may be appealed in court.

Furthermore, the right to bargain collectively is recognised for registered trade unions that represent the majority of the employees in a bargaining unit. Finally, the right to strike is limited, as strike action can only be initiated in disputes that involve specific workers' interests, such as pay rises. Strikes are also subject to a long conciliation procedure. Disputes over workers' rights, including dismissals, must be referred to the Labour Court for arbitration, and the dispute solving mechanisms are long and cumbersome.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: The ruling SWAPO party won the November parliamentary elections, and President Hifikepunye Pohamba, the party's leader, won a second term. The world economic crisis resulted in higher unemployment while inflation meant real wages fell by an average of 3%.

Discrimination against independent trade unions: Trade unions not affiliated with the ruling SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organisation) party have continued to be marginalised. Only representatives of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) serve as members of the Board of Directors of the Social Security Commission and the Government Institution Pension Fund.

Employer hostility: Employers have a history of being generally very hostile towards the unions, refusing to recognise them or let them carry out their activities in workplaces, or to engage in collective bargaining with them. This tendency has been particularly prevalent in the export processing zones. The categories most vulnerable to trade union rights' violations are farm and domestic workers.

Strikers arrested: Six workers taking part in a strike at the NovaNam fishing company's factory in Luderitz were arrested, including union branch organiser Petrus Shiyandja who was taken into custody on 7 January. The workers had begun their strike on 8 December 2008 in a dispute between the Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers Union (NASAWU) and the employer over pay and annual leave. The company went to court and won an injunction ordering strikers not to picket within 400 metres of the factory. The arrests took place after striking workers defied the order. The president of NASAWU Paulus Hango noted that the company went to court without first notifying the union, contrary to the terms of the Labour Act. The strikers continued with their picket to try to prevent other workers brought in from NovaNam's associated companies from entering and working in the factory, thereby undermining their legal strike. The strike was finally called off at the end of January when a compromise agreement was reached. The charges against those arrested were dropped.

Union leader dismissed: The Scorpion Zinc company dismissed the chairperson of the Rosh Pinah branch of the Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MWUN) Michaelano Kadhikwa on 27 August. Kadhikwa played a leading role in reporting the questionable hiring of certain expatriate workers at the mine the previous year, some of whom the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration had since deported. Kadhikwa also had an earlier run-in with the previous Skorpion Zinc General Manager following the union's insistence that managerial and supervisory positions at the mine are purposefully given to white expatriates, while there are competent Namibians able to fill the positions. The disciplinary hearing was scheduled for 27 August, but Kadhikwa had asked for a postponement that would allow him to have union representation during the hearing. Instead of postponing it, the company dismissed him for being absent from the hearing.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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