Population: 2 000 000
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 - 87 - 98 - 105 - 111 - 138 - 182
The law still limits the right to strike and during the year there were cases of employers suspending and dismissing striking workers. One union leader reported receiving death threats for organising a demonstration over pay demands.
Trade union rights in law
Workers are free to form and join trade unions, and the law provides for collective bargaining. The right to strike is recognised, including in the EPZs, although workers in essential services are excluded.
Limitations: Strike action can only be used in disputes involving specific workers’ interests such as pay rises, and there must be a 48 hour notice period. Disputes over workers’ rights, including dismissals, must be referred to the labour court for arbitration. Current arbitration and dispute solving mechanisms are cumbersome, leading to a long backlog of cases.
New labour law: In October 2006, it was reported that a draft of a new Labour Bill amending the 2004 Labour Act had been prepared. The government announced that it would be tabled in Parliament during the 2007 session and would become operative in June 2007. “It will also contribute greatly to the prevention and resolution of labour disputes” claimed the Labour Minister. According to the Minister, the new bill was the product of extensive preparation and stakeholder consultation and reflected a broad consensus.
Trade union rights in practice
Restrictions on union organising: Although farm and domestic workers make up a sizeable portion of the Namibian labour force and are covered by the Labour Code, employers still intimidate them when they try to organise trade unions. The Metal and Allied Workers’ Union (MANWU) has reported that its members are not allowed to organise during working time.
Hostility – particularly in the EPZs: Studies indicate that employers are still generally hostile towards trade unions. They refuse to recognise them. Many do not accept their presence and do not wish to negotiate collective agreements with them. This trend is particularly apparent in companies operating out of the Walvis Bay EPZ.
Violations in 2006
Spar supermarket group suspends striking workers: In April 2006 Ongwediva Continental Spar, a foreign-owned supermarket, suspended 30 workers after they staged a strike that the company described as illegal. A spokesperson for the workers reported that the strike was legal since prior notice had been given. The spokesperson said that workers were demanding better salaries, pension and death benefits, and overtime payment. Spar management, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers’ Union (NAFAU) and the regional labour office in Oshakati were to meet with the workers.
Human rights organisation criticises government for discriminating against independent unions: In November 2006 the National Society for Human Rights, an independent monitoring and advocacy organisation, criticised the government for discriminatory practices against the independent Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA). According to the organisation, various administrative bodies continued to marginalise trade unions that were not affiliated with the ruling SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation) party. Only representatives of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), affiliated with the ruling party, were serving as members of the Board of Directors of the Social Security Commission and the Government Institution Pension Fund. Only members of NUNW had been part of a presidential visit to China and Singapore.
Union leader facing death threats: The Secretary General of the Namibia Nurses Union (NANU), Abner Shopati told national media in December 2006 that he had received death threats on his mobile phone, after organising a demonstration of nurses over pay for working on Sundays and public holidays.