Govt, unions advised to compromise

Martin Endjala

The government and the civil servant representative unions, are being advised to compromise by working together and finding an amicable solution.

This comes in the wake of a possible national strike should the parties fail to agree. 96 percent of those who participated in the strike ballot voting in favour of a strike.

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwenyah cautioned that the consequences of the looming industrial strike could be catastrophic to the people and the economy.

He therefore, advises the two parties to come to a compromise in the interest of the country, while adding that education will be heavily impacted.

National Council MP Paulus Mbangu urged the government to compromise given the situation of the civil servants, who have not seen any improvement in their salaries in seven years.

Another political analyst Hening Melber called for a compromise instead of a confrontation to the best remedy. However, under the current constraints, he foresees difficulties to finding an amicable solution.

With a bloated civil service and a far too high proportion of current expenditure due to the salary bill, the annual budget is already unsustainably lob-sided, hence there is little if any room for adjustments in favour of the demands.

“Unfortunately, Namibia now faces the consequences of wrong priorities and reckless economic mismanagement during what were the fat years, and the public workers make government’s life even tougher. Having said this, for opposition parties to declare their support for the decision to strike, is easy said and borders on cheap populism,” Melber opined. Melber continued saying that Namibia is in the midst of a deep economic crisis and has not yet to recover. He stated that the debt spiral has escalated and fiscal prudence is in dire need.

The demands by the majority who opted for a strike, has put enormous pressure on the state’s financial resources and could most likely only be met if other expenditure is cut. Based on fiscal policy so far, it is said to negatively affect even more, those who have less income than those in public employment.

The secretary general of the Swapo affiliated National Union of Namibian Workers, Job Muniaro in an interview with Windhoek Observer cautioned the government not to undermine the leadership capacity of the unions, they were voted into those ministerial positions by the same people that they are now labelling as insensitive and unpatriotic. Muniaro said they are well aware of the impact of the strike, however, seven years is long overdue and ‘’enough is enough’’.

President Hage Geingob has emphasised that government is fully aware of ‘’opportunists’’ who would like to leverage the situation of striking workers to their advantage, and to foster divisions through populist rhetoric by advancing impractical solutions that will never work in the current economic environment.

The demands of some civil servants under the current circumstances is said to be selfish given the high rate of unemployment. “There are Namibians who lost their livelihoods as a result of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, those who are gainfully employed, should show solidarity with those who are unemployed,” the President said.

Geingob has echoed with regret and sadness of civil servants who are gainfully employed but asking for extra money, while not bearing in mind of those who are unemployed and do not have such luxury.

“In light of the unfortunate decision by the civil servants under the bargaining unit, to vote in favour of an ill-conceived strike, the president has decided to cancel his visit to Jamaica and the Republic of Cuba”, a statement issued by the president yesterday read.

Kamwenyah welcomed the decision by the president, saying that it demonstrated willingness to address the plight of civil servants and the economic situation in the country.

By Observer