Judgment in labour hire legal wrangle reserved

WINDHOEK: Judgment in a legal wrangle between the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the largest labour hire company in Namibia, Africa Personnel Services (APS), has been reserved.

After listening to oral submissions made by lawyers representing the two parties, High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg and Acting Judge Harold Geier, on Thursday, reserved the verdict in the case until further notice.

Lawyers of the two parties – APS as the applicant, and the Labour Ministry and Office of the Labour Commissioner as the respondents – will be notified by the Registrar of the High Court about the date when judgment in the matter will be handed down.

At the beginning of August this year, APS made an eleventh-hour attempt to stop the implementation of the amended Labour Act that came into operation on 01 August this year.

As the middleman in the labour-hiring process, APS’s involvement is outlawed by the new amendments under Section 128 of the Labour Act.

Government and the Namibia Employers’ Federation (NEF) and its members have been at loggerheads over amendments to the Labour Act.

In August this year, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) called on the public to mobilise for a protest against the legal challenge on labour hire brought by the NEF and its affected members.

However, NEF stood its ground, and denied any wrongdoing in their input regarding debate on the amendments of the Labour Act, but accused Government of turning a blind eye to the recommendations made by employers.

NEF said Government is totally unjust to now try to place the blame on employers, and Government should have the courage to admit their errors and with tripartite consultation, rewrite this piece of legislation.

During the proceedings of the hearing in court on Thursday morning, APS’s legal representative Advocate Theo Frank and Matthew Chaskalson (SC-senior counsel), who appeared for the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Office of the Labour Commissioner, made extensive oral submissions on the Namibian Labour Act itself and on the newly disputed amendments as well.

Frank strongly argued that the disputed Labour Act specifically targets the labour hire services in the country, while Chaskalson argued to the contrary.

The disputed regulations of the Labour Act stipulate that when a company uses a casual worker from a labour hire agency, that worker becomes an employee of the company.

In August this year, Labour Minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko accused NEF of spearheading a campaign intended to frighten employers, and to hold the Namibian nation hostage.

Ngatjizeko said the NEF had asked for the Labour Amendment Act of 2012 to be scrapped, and claimed that the new law was certain to cause unemployment.

NEF also said new Labour Act Amendment would scare off investors, and would cause further social instability in the country.

APS owner, business tycoon Ranga Haikali, was quoted as saying in earlier media reports that more than 7 000 casual workers will be left jobless with the implementation of this new law.

He said APS, a member of the NEF, faces liquidation if its bid to stop the implementation fails.

Frank was assisted by prominent Windhoek-based lawyer Esie Schimming-Chase, while Government Attorney Nixon Marcus assisted Chaskalson.

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