Pimping workers

17 August 2012

WE welcome the decision by African Personnel Services (APS) to shelve its application for an urgent interdict against the implementation of the amendments to the Labour Act.
The company should go further and drop the case it earlier lodged in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Section 128 of the Labour Amendment Act.
Our advice to APS is give up; stop wasting your money on a futile exercise and on attempting to justify something that is morally indefensible.
Even if APS wins the case, it can only win it on legal technicalities and that will amount to a pyrrhic victory.

It will merely serve as a delaying tactic and just set off another costly and time-consuming round of legal drafting for a new bill that Government then has to table in parliament again.
We agree that people slightly overstate the case when they compare present-day labour hire with the recruitment practices of the colonial era South West Africa Native Labour Association (Swanla).
However, because labour hire is not nearly as bad as the old Swanla labour recruitment system does not make it either good or acceptable in a modern, progressive society.
The transition between colonial rule and independence created a certain amount of anarchy in the country because of the dangerous political, moral and legal vacuum that it left.
This fostered a moral relativism and opened up loopholes that allowed all manner of vices to flourish, and the country more or less became a free for all.
These vices included the re-emergence of usury in the form of cash-loan business, the spread of prostitution, illegal gambling dens around almost every corner and despicable business practices like labour hire.
Knowing that no one was watching, or enforcing the law, some farmers illegally moved boundary fences and also built illegal dams on their farms.
These dams became a major headache for black Namibians who later bought farms only to find the ecological balance of the farms destroyed.
The illegal dams built by neighbouring farmers deprived their farms of their natural water flow leaving large parts of them a parched wasteland.
For now, we will reserve our judgement on prostitution and abortion, because some socially progressive thinkers feel that one can make a case for legalising these.
Nevertheless, there is a peculiar parallel of some sort between labour hire and prostitution.
Both involve a middleman who earns an extravagant amount of money for doing little or nothing; the worker who actually provides the service and then the customer.
For the pimp the activity is highly profitable, but for the other two parties involved the experience can prove curiously unsatisfying.
The prostitute only engages in the work reluctantly, usually out of desperation and performs the service coldly and dispassionately.
She usually carries out the work with as little commitment and as much detachment as she can, and wants the job over with as quickly as possible.
The customer meanwhile is equally desperate. In this case, a yearning for some human physical contact and pretence of emotional connection and affection that usually remains unrequited.
It is the fleeting, empty and meaningless encounter of two lonely ships passing each other in the night on a dark and desolate ocean, which ultimately leaves both parties less than satisfied.
Similarly, people resort to labour hire companies because they are desperate to earn a livelihood while the companies that employ them also need workers.
That is where the parallel should end because the two do not need a pimp as a go-between in order to enter into a mutually beneficial and productive relationship. No one should be screwing anyone here!
Furthermore, why do we need a pimp to slap his ‘bitch’ around whenever she refuses to hand over her cash, or cannot go to work because she is sick?
The labour hire companies also need to stop their scaremongering.
The threat that 80 percent – or over 7,000 – casual workers will lose their employment because of the regulation of labour hire sounds more like a scare tactic than anything else.
A certain percentage of casual workers will undoubtedly lose their jobs, but is unlikely that this will amount to anywhere near 80 percent.
After all, someone will still need to carry out the functions these casual workers were performing.
Researchers have pointed out that the cost of employing a worker remains almost the same when an employer sources staff through a labour hire company.
The only difference is that – just as in prostitution – most of the money goes to the pimp.
The Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF) has quite rightly pointed out that the legislation must make provision for some types of temporary employment.
Temp agencies that advertise temporary jobs litter the media in most developed countries.
Some people, for one or other reason, choose temporary rather than permanent employment.
That is completely different from someone who goes out in search of permanent employment, but then receives casual employment under what virtually amounts to false pretences.
Labour hire companies need to stop pimping workers because it reduces the value of work to something demeaning, degrading and worthless.
This happens at a time when we need to instil the idea in young people that work is a noble and worthy pursuit, as well as inculcate a strong work ethic in them.
In the real world there are few ‘happy hookers’, whether it be in prostitution or the labour market.
If employers want an enthusiastic and committed workforce, they need to build a genuine relationship with their employees, and that requires commitment from both sides.




The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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