Unions, Govt to butt heads over strike rules….Geingob cancels overseas trips amid strike

Obrein Simasiku

Unions representing civil servants in the looming national strike will tomorrow butt heads with the government, as they sit to set rules to guide the picketing process, after the workers overwhelmingly voted in favour of an industrial action.

About 96 percent voted in favour of the strike during the two-day voting period that ended on Friday.

Meanwhile at an eleventh hour President Hage Geingob has decided to cancel his overseas State visits to Jamaica and Cuba, saying he will need to attend to the slated strike because its a pressing domestic matter.

“We have a meeting with the government who is the employer, tomorrow morning in which are going to deliberate and set rules of the strike. Based on the outcome, we shall inform the government through a 48-hour notice of our intent to embark on the strike, when and for how long,” said Namibia National Teachers’ Union president Loide Shaanika.

When queried on what the union’s stance was regarding government’s alleged retaliation of ‘’No work, No pay’’, Shaanika said, that issue is also on the cards for discussion. “It is the employer’s right to choose that route because it is already a law, if you withdraw labour, you also withdraw payment.

However, we are going to indulge on the matter and see what is favourable for both,” explained Shaanika.

Despite the results having made rounds on social and mainstream media, such still remain as preliminary as the unions are set to make the official announcement tomorrow. “Due to pressing matters we could not announce the results today, however this shall be done tomorrow afternoon, after our meeting with the employer in the morning,” stated the NANTU president.

Meanwhile efforts to get comment from Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU) proved futile as the mobile phone rang unanswered.

Preliminary results show that, out of 81 853 eligible voters only 43 794 cast their votes. 42 216 voted ‘Yes’ in favor of the strike representing 96 percent, 1232 voted against, and while 346 were recorded as spoiled/rejected.

The situation follows failed negotiations dating back more than a year ago, since the union and government failed to reach consensus on the increment of salaries and benefits. The employer has been maintaining that it is not in any financial position to bow to the salary hike demands. But instead, offered that it can only provide 4.5 percent om housing and 10 percent on transport, a move that would cost government N$349.9 million.

On the other hand, the union wanted a nine percent increase in basic salary, and 10 percent for transport allowance, which was later revised to 7 percent 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 transport benefit.

In June Finance Minister Iipumbi Shiimi had said it would cost a whooping N$1.2 billion if increments are to be entertained at the rate at which the unions are demanding. There are over 100 000 civil servants who annually accounts for more than N$30 billion in salaries.

By Observer