Trade Unions

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

The Constitution of Namibia states that there is a fundamental right to freedom of association which includes the freedom to form and join associations or unions, including trade unions or political parties.

An employer cannot prejudice against an employee or an individual seeking employment because of past, present or anticipated because of a membership to a trade union, or participation in the lawful activities of a trade union outside of ordinary working hours or during working hours with the permission of the employer.

Sources: §21(1)(e) of the Constitution of Namibia and §6 of the labour Act, 2007

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

Under the Labour Code, 2007, a registered trade union which represents the majority of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit is entitled to be recognized as its exclusive bargaining agent to negotiate a collective agreement on any matter of mutual interest.

To be recognized as an exclusive bargaining agent, the registered trade union must ask the employer or the employers’ organization to recognize it as the exclusive bargaining agent. The trade union will then submit to the labour commissioner a copy of its request of recognition to the employer or the employers’ organization, proof that the request has been served to the employer and proof that the trade union represents majority of the employees within the bargaining union. Within 30 days of the request, the employer or the employers’ organization must inform the trade union has been recognized as an exclusive bargaining agent.

Where the trade union is not recognized, the trade union may then refer the dispute to the labour commissioner. The labour commissioner must then refer the dispute to the arbitrator. If the arbitrator is satisfied that the trade union represents majority of the workforce in the bargaining unit then the arbitrator can make an order recognizing the trade union as exclusive bargaining unit.

The Labour Advisory Council is to investigate and inform the Minister of Labour of matters such as collective bargaining, national policy concerning basic conditions of employment as well as health and safety at work, the prevention and reduction of employment, issues arising from International Labour Organization etc.

Sources: §64 & 93 of the Labour Code, 2007

Right to Strike

Employees have a right to strike where the dispute has already been referred to the labour Commissioner for conciliation, where the employees’ representatives have attended the conciliation meetings and even then, the dispute remains unresolved at the end of 30 days of the referral. The period may be shorter or longer either because of non-attendance by the employers’ representatives or employees’ representatives respectively. 

After the end of the applicable period, the employees have to give 48 hours of notice of the strike to the labour commissioner and other parties to the dispute. The strike has to conform to any agreed rules regulating the conduct of the strike or any rules determined by the conciliator.

A person cannot participate in a strike if the dispute should be referred for arbitration or adjudication or where the dispute is concerning an essential service. The Essential Services Committee must recommend to the labour Advisory Council the essential services where the interruption to the service which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the population. The Labour Advisory Council after considering the report of the Essential Services Committee, has to forward its recommendation to the Minister of Labour. Upon consideration, the Minister can decide to designate a particular service as an essential service and have the notice of its designation be published in the Gazette. 

Hiring of replacement workers in place of the striking workers is prohibited under the Labour Act.

Sources: §74-77 of the Labour Act, 2007

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