Namibian Broadcasting Corporation director general Stanley Similo says insisting on salary increases during these difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic whereby some Namibians have become unemployed is ‘insensitive’.
NBC workers have been demanding for an 8% salary increase and on Friday staged a lunch-time demonstration to air their grievances. However, Similo feels the demands are unrealistic given the disruption caused by the virulent Covid-19, including loss of income for many Namibians. “During these difficult economic times whereby some Namibians have become unemployed, we cannot continue to be tone-deaf and insensitive and insist on salary increases, while the main shareholder, the government has not given increases for the past four years to its own employees,” Similo said in a statement last week. Similo said the national broadcaster has always been committed to any negotiation process geared towards mutual benefit to both the employer and employees.
However, he was quick to add, the impact of Covid-19 on the global economy and by extension to the Namibian economy is having an adverse effect on various levels of the nation.
“The NBC is also not immune to this situation. Therefore, this cannot be ignored when engaging in wage negotiations,” Similo said. “Job security has always been a priority for NBC and is regarded as a key aspect of caring for employees, hence no NBC employee was retrenched during the past five years, and especially during the financially difficult times.”
The NBC management and the Namibian Public Workers Union (Napwu) failed to reach consensus on the appropriate salary increase amounts last week. The workers threatened to continue demonstrating today. Similo said despite all these headwinds facing the NBC, the corporation board of directors agreed to a once-off payment for employees in the bargaining unit. “It was also communicated that the intention is to effect payment of amounts varying from N$10 000 to N$20 000 per employee in the bargaining unit or it could be a flat N$15 000 as once off. However, these are subject to NBC sourcing funds to cater for this,” he said.
Similo also reminded Napwu of the fact that about 70% of NBC employees in the bargaining unit have been receiving notch increases of between 3.5% to 4% as well as guaranteed 13th cheques/bonuses for the past five years. Hence, he said, the notion that all NBC employees have not received any wage increase of some kind for the past two years is totally false.
“The outstanding 30% are employees who have reached the maximum notch levels of the salary scales and would obviously not qualify for notch increases but have received their 13th cheque/bonuses annually for the past five consecutive years,” Similo said.
According to Similo, the NBC has spent N$53 million towards employees’ 13th cheques/bonuses, notch increases and performance incentives.
“Employees on the conventional/normal salary structure received their payments for the past five years to the tune of N$47.6 million. This amount consisting of notch increases and guaranteed 13th cheques/bonuses amounts to N$9.5 million paid religiously every year,” he said.
For those on total-cost-to-company, Similo said the performance incentives were deferred for the past five years because NBC’s own generated revenue ended up being used to fund other NBC’s operations, including the 13th cheque/ bonuses and notch increases for employees on the conventional/normal basic salary structure.
Meanwhile, in a televised interview, NBC board chairperson, Lazarus Jacobs has called on Napwu and the NBC union representatives to further engage in talks instead of declaring a dispute with the Labour Commissioner.