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Civil servants consider biggest national walkout

2022-07-28  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Civil servants consider biggest national walkout

Despite warnings by experts and begging by the government, civil servants are expected to cast their votes today and tomorrow ahead of what could amount to the biggest-ever strike since independence.

Cabinet secretary George Simataa in a memo yesterday informed government executive directors (EDs) that Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has granted permission to eligible staff members to partake in the balloting while noting that essential services are not allowed to participate as per the labour act.

“We appeal to you, as accounting officers, to make sure that the releasing of staff members to participate in this process does not cause disruption or distraction to service delivery. Efforts should be made for staff members to be released at intervals to ensure that there is continued service delivery,” Simataa said. 

The collapse of pay rise negotiations last month led the country’s biggest civil service trade unions – the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) and the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) – to ballot more than 100 000 members on whether to take industrial action, with results anticipated soon thereafter.

Both Nantu secretary general Loide Shaanika and Napwu SG Petrus Nevonga from the bargaining unions could yesterday not comment on the ballot readiness, as their phones went unanswered.

Public Service Union of Namibia secretary general Matheus Haakuria yesterday urged all public servants to go out and vote en masse. 

“The strike is necessary to bring about improved conditions of service and inject the necessary cash into the economy,” he said.

He also lambasted the ruling party Swapo, saying the party has long abandoned the liberation struggle ideals at the dawn of independence when it aligns itself with the interest of capital and relegated the workers’ issues to bread-and-butter issues. 

“They have sold the workers to their highest bidder, which are the capitalists the government as an employer is emulating currently. This is evidenced by the first Labour Act and its subsequent versions, and its capitalist investment and trade practices supported by massive corruption,” he said.

Labour minister Utoni Nujoma, addressing the media on Tuesday, reminded civil servants of the no work no pay policy in place before adding that government simply does not have money to meet the employees’ demands. 

Education minister Anna Nghipondoka also urged civil servants, specifically teachers, to act rationally and not only consider their needs and interests but also those of fellow citizens and the country at large.

Civil servants last received an increase in 2017. 

Workers’ unions representing the interests of civil servants had requested a 10% increment across the board, a 25% increase to qualifying amounts on housing subsidies, a 9% increase on housing allowances, a 10% increase in transport for civil servants below management, and a N$7 per kilometre tariff increase. 

Despite efforts by the unions to revise their initial proposals for a basic salary increase from 10% to 5%, government still has not considered it. 

The only partial benefit government is willing to make an offer on is the housing allowance, where management and staff members below management cadre would get a 4.5% increase. 

The other benefit the government is also willing to offer is another 4.5% for the housing ownership scheme, and a 10% transport allowance increase for staff members below management level. -

2022-07-28  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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