President Hage Geingob yesterday reiterated government’s stance that there was simply no money for salary adjustments for public service workers.
During his state of the nation address at a joint sitting of both houses of parliament, Geingob did not shy away from telling civil servants who did not get a salary increment for the past 10 years that the truth is there is no money. He said no one is trying to deny workers a salary increment that they deserve.
“There is no money. It is as simple as that. We have difficulties. There is an economic crisis. There is crisis management,” Geingob said while responding to questions from Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani.
“We explained the difficulties to the workers. Swapo was formed by workers. Why do you think the President of that party would like to deny you money? To prove what? It is not my money. There is just no money.”
Workers’ unions representing the interests of civil servants had requested for 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 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%, the government still didn’t consider 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 level would get a 4.5% increase.
The other benefits 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 the management level. Geingob also reminded civil servants that no one is punishing them through the zero-salary increment, but said “we are all in this boat, and should hold hands together.”
He furthermore used the opportunity to refute allegations that the government plans or has bought a new fleet. Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi this week pointed out the contradiction of some parliamentarians lamenting the size of the budget deficit and consequently the increase in government debt, while still advocating for an increase in civil servants’ wages.
Shimi warned that increasing civil servants’ salaries would escalate the wage bill, which would in turn worsen the deficit. This, he cautioned, would consequently make national debt unsustainable.
The Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) declared a dispute after wage talks hit a deadlock.
Napwu and Nantu submitted a salary and benefits incremental proposal for the financial year 2021/2022 to the government in February 2021. The two unions, after having thoroughly interrogated the implications of a cumulative zero offer by the government since the 2018/2019 financial year, found it impossible to accept the government’s counter-offer, which only catered partially for some benefits.