Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Namibia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Namibia, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
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

Strong concern was expressed about workers' rights in Chinese owned construction companies. A food workers' union accused a retail chain of bargaining in bad faith and had its recognition agreement terminated. Although basic trade union rights are secured, excessive restrictions apply to the right to strike.


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.


Background: The country remained politically and economically stable. President Pohamba of the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) continued a second term in office, cementing his reputation as a consensus builder. The country ranks 105 out of 169 countries, with a Human Development Index of 0.606, placing it well above the regional average. The HIV/AIDS epidemic, however, is estimated to affect 25% of Namibians.

Union marginalised: At a press conference in June 2010 Mahongora Kavihuha, secretary general of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA), stated that the relationship between the union and government was hostile and that it was difficult to access ministers.

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 (EPZ). The categories most vulnerable to trade union rights' violations are farm and domestic workers.

Workers concerned for their rights: At a conference organised by the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) on 23 and 24 August 2010 workers expressed strong concerns about Chinese construction companies who regularly ignored workers' rights and the country's labour laws. Between 60% and 70% of construction tenders are awarded to Chinese companies.

Bad faith bargaining: In December the Namibian Food and Allied Workers' Union (NAFAU) found itself in dispute with Shoprite Checkers over what the union termed "slavery working conditions and exploitation of workers". Tensions were further heightened by the deadlock in negotiations for annual wage increments, with NAFAU feeling that the company started off negotiations in bad faith. The Labour Commission granted the negotiations a certificate of unresolved dispute. Shoprite terminated the recognition agreement with NAFAU saying the union did not have majority members.

NAFAU had rejected a pay offer from the retail chain that fell well below its demands. The union also asked Shoprite Checkers to address long-standing employment conditions of housing and transport allowance and the issue of employing people as casual workers for a period of more than two years.

Unfair dismissal ruling – company avoiding reinstatement: A labour arbitrator with the Ministry of Labour ruled on 20 October that the dismissal of 156 workers by the mining company Purity Manganese, following a strike in July 2009, was unfair. The company was ordered to reinstate the workers to their former posts by 3 January 2011 and to pay each of them the equivalent of a year's salary. The company lodged an appeal against the ruling and there had been no reinstatements or compensation paid by the end of the year.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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