Napwu open for talks: Nevonga

Obrein Simasiku

The Namibia Public Workers’ Union (NAPWU) is stuck to its grounds over the ongoing debacle of the planned national strike for civil servants who are demanding for improved salaries and wages, as it receives a backlash and stiff resistance from government and top officials who are maintaining that there is no money, labelling the strike as an ill-conceived plan.

NAPWU general secretary, Petrus Nevonga was reacting to comments by President Hage Geingob in a statement issued by the Presidential Spokesperson, in which the cancellation of an overseas trip by Geingob was announced.

“We followed the Labour Act, and this is a law that passed through parliament and eventually signed by the President. We have done everything procedurally, therefore for one to say our actions are ill-conceived it is not right, unless we say those who drafted and enacted the law are ill-conceived themselves, then we shall understand,” said Nevonga, adding that the aggrieved workers have expressed their constitutional right.

He further took issue with the notion, that, unions as a bargaining unit, twisted things and rejected offers given by the government. Instead he said, government has not offered anything since the negotiations deadlocked. “Everyone took their stance and that is where we are now, so to claim otherwise is not right, because now and then we inform our members of our the status, why did they not dispute any of our revelation then, why now?” he asked.

In the statement, the presidency said that, “during the negotiations, the impression was created that the Namibian Government did not offer anything, in recognition of the situation in which the civil servants find themselves. This is not the case. On the contrary, the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) presented a new offer, which increased the total value of the benefits (housing and transport) from the initial offer of N$226 million to N$335 million. The GNT reiterated to both NAPWU and NANTU that the offer takes effect from the 2022/2023 financial year (1 April 2022) and not from 2021/2022 financial year as per their initial demand.”

The statement further read: “The Namibian Government has been emphasizing the fact that under the current circumstances, it is necessary for cool heads to prevail and to think hard about the socio-economic consequences of any industrial action on the part of the civil service. 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. As some are seeking to proceed with a strike, it is crucial for all to understand that the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin.

“The Namibian Government would like to appeal to those who voted for the strike not to pressurize civil servants who are willing to work. Government is fully aware of opportunists who would want to leverage the situation of striking workers to their advantage, to foster divisions through populist rhetoric by advancing impractical solutions that will never work in the current”

The trade unions want 9 percent increase in basic salary, and 10 percent for transport allowance, which was later revised to 7 percent increase on homeowners’ scheme for staff members and 14.5 percent housing benefits for non-management workers, while those in management would be entitled to 12 percent. In addition, 14 percent was proposed for non-managers as a transport benefit.

Today Napwu representatives including Namibia National Teachers Union met with the labour commissioner to brief them on the official outcome of the voting, what is remaining now according to Nevonga, is to set strike rules together with the employer, and engage in further negotiations. If no amicable solution is achieved, a 48-hour notice will be issued when and how long the strike will take.

By Observer