Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) general secretary Petrus Nevonga yesterday took a sharp dig at finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi, accusing him of providing misleading information to civil servants.
Addressing journalists, Nevonga said Shiimi, while tabling the mid-budget review last week, gave the nation the wrong impression when he “extended specific gratitude to trade unions and all civil servants for purportedly having heeded the government’s call by keeping their belts tightened for the period under review (2021/2022 financial year)”.
“The information he communicated
in parliament is misleading, unfounded and devoid of any truth as the negotiation process is still ongoing,” he said.
Nevonga added that such a statement created an impression that Napwu and the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) have consented to government’s counter proposals on negotiations.
“Such a statement is also pre-emptive of the outcome of the next round of negotiations between government, Napwu and Nantu scheduled for 29 November this year,” said the unionist.
Nevonga stated that Shiimi is neither a member of the negotiation committee, nor was he mandated by the negotiating committee to communicate on the issues relating to salary negotiation on its behalf.
“The unions denounce in the strongest terms the statement by honourable Iipumbu (Shiimi) that the unions and civil servants heeded to government call to tighten our belts.”
He then assured civil servants that the negations process for the 2021/2022 financial year is still ongoing, and parties are due to meet on 29 November for continuation of the negotiations.
“The outcome of the negotiation meeting will determine the way forward and civil servants will be informed accordingly by the unions,” said Nevonga.
Napwu and Nantu submitted a salary and benefits incremental proposal for the financial year 2021/2022 to government in February this year.
The unions requested a 10% increment for salaries across all boards; 25% increase to qualifying amounts on housing subsidies; 9% increase on housing allowances; 10% increase on transport for civil servants below management; and N$7 per kilometre tariff increase. In May, the unions received a counter offer in writing from government, informing them of its inability to grant salary increments for the 2021/2022 financial year as per the unions’ proposal.
Government said at the time “state finances are already stretched to safeguard current government expenditures, inclusive of remuneration related expenditure in order to sustain critical public services and programmes…while maintaining fiscal sustainability and that public revenue have significantly reduced due to a decline in the economy, amongst others”.
In his mid-term budget review speech, Shiimi stressed government intends to tighten the noose on unnecessary expenditure while also keeping down the public wage bill, which gobbles up over 50% of public expenditure under control.
“I would like to extend specific gratitude to the trade unions and indeed all civil servants for heeding our call and keeping their belts tightened. We still plead with them to maintain patience especially in the next fiscal year, which promises to be more difficult, so we allow the economy to recover more firmly,” Shiimi said in his speech.
He said last week, government has also put a moratorium on mass personnel recruitment in the civil service while concurrently speeding up the work of the steering committee on wage bill reforms, aimed at reducing personnel expenditure over the medium-term expenditure framework.
Meanwhile, civil servants have not received salary and benefits adjustments for the past six years.
Public Service Union of Namibia president Titus Sitentu earlier this year put the blame squarely at the door of Napwu and Nantu - the majority unions - whom he accused of “consistently failing the workers”.
Sitentu said it would be a disservice on the government’s part if this year ends with no adjustments to the salaries of civil servants.