Rail parastatal TransNamib has been given a mandatory 48-hour notice by the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union to resolve the ongoing wage dispute.
The call comes after an overwhelming number of TransNamib employees on Friday voted in favour of a strike.
The strike will commence on 17 August 2022.
Natau’s secretary general Narina Pollmann said in a media statement that out of the 1 024 employees, who are members of the union and fall within the Paterson grading level A1 to C5, 788 cast their vote on Friday.
A total of 726 employees voted in favour of a strike, 22 workers did not want an industrial action, while 40 of the ballots were spoiled.
The results were obtained from 10 polling stations across the country.
“The 48-hour notice starting today is given to TransNamib Holdings, and the parties shall during such notice period as well as thereafter hold themselves available to meet, at the request of either party to the dispute or the conciliator, in a further endeavour to settle the dispute,” explained Pollmann.
Elaborating on the workers’ demands, she said the employees in 2019 requested a salary increase of 18% for workers who fall within the A band, 15% for those within the B band, and 13% for the C band.
This offer was rejected by TransNamib.
The employees went back to the drawing board, and reduced their demands. They presented TransNamib with three options: firstly, a salary increase of 15% for employees within the A band, 13% for those workers falling within the B band, and 9% for those within the C band.
In the second option, the employees were willing to settle for an increase of 7% for the A band, 5.5% for the B band and 3.5% for the C band.
The last option presented was for the company to give a salary increment of 7% across the board.
“This compromise offer was made by the workers in October 2021, which the company rejected, and maintained the zero increase,” Pollmann continued.
Yesterday, TransNamib spokesperson Abigail Raubenheimer said they have received the election results.
“I can confirm that we have received the election outcome. The company will apply the no-work no-pay principle during the strike period.
“TransNamib has a contingency plan in place, but the fact remains that the industrial action
will negatively impact our operations and disrupt the normal scheduled train services for the
duration of this planned industrial action, of which the end-date is not known.
“As a responsible corporate entity, we will try and provide essential train services to those key and strategic commodities and routes, within our operational capabilities.
“The staff and management of TransNamib, with the support of the shareholder, will endeavour to work to resolve this matter with the urgency it rightfully deserves. We will keep you abreast of all developments relating to this impasse,” added Raubenheimer.
Last month, the company won a temporary reprieve when the High Court put a temporary halt to the planned industrial action by its workers that was scheduled to start on Monday, 18 July 2022.
The company said the union carried out a strike ballot on 28 April, despite the conciliator advising against it – rendering it unlawful, as it was done before the strike rules were set. On 7 July, the union informed TransNamib that they would be carrying out an industrial action on 18 July, without conducting the strike ballot after the strike rules were set.
CEO Johny Smith then said if the industrial action proceeds, the railway company would suffer immensely.
“Since the pandemic of Covid-19, which affected Namibia since March 2020 and which currently continues, the applicant has been operating at a loss of N$15 million to N$20 million monthly. In addition, the State’s subsidies have been reduced drastically,” he noted.
Earlier this month, Smit said an industrial action by the workers will not change anything as the company is in no position to affect any salary increment in the foreseeable future.
According to him, the strike will only do more harm than good to an institution in dire financial straits. Should employees, however, choose to proceed with the industrial action, the company will apply the no-work no-pay principle during the strike period, he warned.