The Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF) and the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) signed a collective agreement on 3 October 2023.
The two entities report that the agreement was signed after successful negotiations for the minimum wage payable per worker category as well as minimum employment conditions.
“This agreement was submitted to the office of minister Uutoni Nujoma on 4 October 2023. This included the request that the collective agreement would be extended and binding to all employers and employees in the construction sector. This document was verified by the CIF and Manwu, and signed by both parties, and indeed was the correct version,” reads a CIF statement issued yesterday. The statement added that the CIF was on 7 November 2023 asked to provide a soft copy of the agreement to the labour ministry, which was forwarded per e-mail to the authority.
“The process to extend the collective agreement took its course, and the labour ministry forwarded the documentation to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), following which the agreement was published in the Government Gazette on 20 December 2023, with the call for objections, which the authorities needed to receive by 19 January 2024.
A grace period was given for 14 days to receive any late objections,” the statement added. Bärbel Kirchner, executive director of the CIF stated: “Fortunately, we picked up an error just before the grace period ended. Indeed, there was a mistake in the soft copy that was sent per e-mail to the ministry of labour. This was an honest human error, and there was nothing deliberate about this. We sent a copy of what we had thought was a final version but indeed there was another version which had included the corrections made afterwards, which were also reflected in the signed copy of the agreement, which had been delivered to the minister’s office on 4 October 2023”.
“Personally, I would like to apologise for the CIF’s part in creating this confusion. We do hope that this matter can be resolved quickly. As soon as we have noticed this error, we have also informed our members,” Kirchner added.
“It is sad that it has become a blame game. We recognise the mistake that we have made. But at the end of the day, one would also have hoped that any soft copy would be compared with the hard copy; i.e. the Microsoft Word document with the signed agreement, by the authorities. That has not occurred. At the same time, during the ‘objection phase’ not one of the parties has picked up the error. The CIF became aware once a contractor had questioned the calculation of the increases,” Kirchner explained.
“As soon as we noticed the error, we immediately informed the ministry of labour and Manwu, and asked the authority that it would be corrected before it was published again. We had hoped that since there had been no other objections, that the correct collective agreement could be published immediately. But unfortunately, this is not how the law works. We will now have to wait until the process is completed.”
“Whilst we are sorry about this situation, we must also remember, that most of our members, already pay above the minimum wage payable. The increases that are being referred to are not a percentage increase for workers in given categories; and are also not for all employees in the construction sector. A minimum wage merely determines what the absolute minimum and what a worker in specific category should get paid. If the worker is already paid higher than the minimum wage payable, then it is within the discretion of the employer to increase the wages or not,” Kirchner continued. She added that the CIF hopes this matter will lead to greater awareness of the minimum wages payable in the construction sector, stating that whilst authorities are keen to introduce a national minimum wage, the construction industry is one of the few industries that already determined minimum employment conditions and the minimum wage payable.
“We regard the collective agreement for our industry, and the extension of it, as extremely valuable. It is important that we have a level playing field with regard to the employee- costs-to -company. It is therefore important that everyone acquaints themselves, and indeed also the labour inspectors of the ministry of labour, who are tasked to monitor the adherence to the collective agreement, once its extension has been gazetted,” Kirchner concluded.