Civil servants have been told to “wake up and smell the coffee” after government and unions representing workers reached a wage agreement, which the Public Service Union of Namibia (PSUN) described as “shocking”.
The looming strike of civil servants was averted on Thursday after the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) and government negotiating teams signed an agreement at State House.
Napwu, Nantu and the government announced that they had reached an agreement to increase civil servants’ salaries by 3% across the board alongside other benefits after the government scaled-up its offer to civil servants from N$344 million to N$924 million.
“It is gravely shocking to note that Napwu and Nantu, with their so-called “sole collective bargaining agency power” which they shamelessly boast with, negotiated in bad faith and failed completely or deliberately ignored to represent the workers in the said bargaining unit fairly,” PSUN deputy secretary general Jamee Kaahangoro charged on Friday.
She called upon civil servants to wake up and start to realise that the Napwu and Nantu leaderships are “incompetent and politically compromised to negotiate with experienced and cunning government officials”.
Kahaangoro added that without obtaining a fresh mandate from the workers, the Napwu and Nantu leadership went behind their backs and sealed an agreement on behalf of the workers in the bargaining unit.
“This is unacceptable. It is deceitful, for a lack of a better word, mischievous as far as it is construed to have had deceived not only their members, but also the entire workers in public service and the public in general,” she continued.
According to Kaahangoro, the voting was based on a particular proposal, not what the unions “accepted behind closed doors”.
“Napwu and Nantu don’t have a single right to make decisions on behalf of the civil servants, which they know or ought to know very well that such a move will affect them (workers) adversely,” she reiterated.
She said to add salt to injury, they accepted a deal which is way below inflation.
“This is a non-starter, and deserves to be rejected at all cost,” she noted. She added that the government team dangled the lump sum strategy in the union leaderships’ eyes, and Napwu and Nantu swallowed this “hook, line and sinker – what a shock”!.
“Remember, sometime back they negotiated a 2.5% increment, and as we stated earlier, these were sham negotiations, and the workers have seen this for themselves,” she added.
Kaahangoro therefore called on civil servants to join her union and hand them the bargaining power for better representation and promotion of social justice for all.
“The workers have been abused for too long, and it is now time to make that shift to independent trade unions,” she continued.
She said it is shameful to note that the government has taken no measures to curb their extravagant lifestyles, but failed to honour the demands of the civil servants, who had not received increases at least for the past seven years.
Landless People’s Movement (LPM) spokesperson Eneas Emvula slammed the Swapo-affiliated unions Napwu and Nantu, saying they are a contradiction to the principles that guide the settlement of a labour dispute, especially of this magnitude, and thus deem it “not procedural”.
“Public servants in Namibia endured a painful seven years of no increase in their basic salaries, despite the need to effect an inflationary, proportional adjustment on a gradual basis – even so pre-pandemic era - and to extend a meaningful economic relief and morale boost for public service employees,” he said in a statement.
In economics, Emvula said, inflation is understood as a general increase in commodity prices and services of a given economy.
“The purchasing power of the working class is proportionally affected when prices of goods and services rise. Not our sluggish economic growth (lack of innovation) nor the pandemic should ever be cited as an excuse; more so in light of the rampant corruption of the economy by the ruling elite,” he added.
Emvula said the annual inflation in Namibia increased to 6% in June from the 5.4% that dragged on since 2021.
This jump is reported to be underpinned by a commodity price jump of between 6.6% and 18.6% in the transport, food, non-alcoholic beverages, accommodation, restaurants and cafes’ sectors.
‘Hard done by’… Civil servants voting for or against strike action last month.