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Unam strike enters fourth day

2018-11-01  Matheus Hamutenya

Unam strike enters fourth day
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Onesmus Embula and Matheus Hamutenya

WINHDOEK/KEETMANSHOOP - Employees of the University of Namibia (Unam) who on Monday embarked on a nationwide strike at the institution’s 12 campuses by yesterday persisted with the industrial action saying they will continue until their demands for a six percent wage increase back dated to January are met.

The strike involves all 12 Unam campuses and nine regional centres, where staff have downed tools following a 61 percent majority vote in favour of the strike this is despite the fact Unam did not offer any increase while workers demand want a six percent raise.

One of the striking workers Kashiwanwa Neshila-Immanuel said they followed all the legal procedures before they resorted to the strike, however, their efforts to engage management to respond to their demand stalled.

She said prevailing economic hardships and inflation are the major reasons for their strike. “We are forced to get cash loans and bank overdrafts because our incomes are insufficient to meet our financial necessities, therefore we demand a fair six percent increment,” said Neshila-Immanuel.

On Monday, the two unions representing the workers, the Namibian National Teachers’ Union (NANTU) together with Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU, held a closed-door meeting where they accused Unam management for apparently having violated the strike rules.

According to the unions, Unam management violated the strike rule that entail the institution should provide ablution facilities and clean drinking water points to be used by striking employees for the duration of the striking action. 
They also alleged management attempted scab labour (hiring any individual) to perform duties of the striking employees during the strike.

To this end, Edwin Tjiramba the Director of Communications and Marketing at Unam, explained management is duty-bound to ensure the rights are protected of the employees who fall inside the bargaining unit but decide to work.
He gave the example of an incident at Unam campus at Henties Bay where an employee who is also a registered student of the university is said to have performed duties, specifically the invigilation of students during the on-going examinations.
“We are currently investigating that incident, not necessarily pertaining to the strike but it is an academic matter which is very serious in any case and the university will deal with it accordingly,” said Tjiramba. However, he made the assurance the examinations are continuing without being affected by the strike.  

Meanwhile, Napwu chairperson Barbara van der Westhuizen said in reaction to the Henties Bay campus incident of a student invigilating and being allowed access to the safe where exam papers are stored could result in examinations being nullified. She further threatened the strike will continue until such a time that a settlement has been reached, stating “unless we decide to withdraw and serve a new notice for industrial action to commence at the later date.”

Meanwhile, striking employees at the Unam southern campus also accused their employer of violating strike rules by hiring part time employees to handle examinations.

Spokesperson for striking workers at the Keetmanshoop campus, Dr Franco Maseke informed New Era that while the striking workers are not allowed to access exam venues, they have been reliably informed part-time employees have been brought in as examination invigilators.

“We have learned that Mr Afrikaner and Moster who are both part time employees have been invigilating and are still invigilating, they were never supposed to invigilate as per the timetable but were only brought in now, so we have the evidence here that part time employees have been invigilating, and that is in contravention of the strike rules,” he stated.
According to him, the chaos has compromised the whole examination process at all campuses, adding that they also have it on good grounds that students have been cheating in the exams due to lack of proper supervision, which he said compromises the examinations.

“The exams are being compromised as we speak, I have cases from here, I have evidence from here where the invigilator signed the attendance list that he was invigilating but the timetable shows he was not supposed to be the one invigilating, and we have also learned that students have been cheating in the exams at other campuses,” he stated.

Maseke called on Unam management and government to come on board and meet the workers half way, saying the six percent they are demanding is not even above the inflation rate and therefore sense must prevail so that an amicable solution is reached to get things back to normal, as he noted that they cannot keep on delivering without just compensation.

“We cannot continue to deliver quality education and services with the absence of proper and adequate remuneration, this chaos is as a result of management not wanting to listen and come on board to reach an amicable solution,” he stressed.


2018-11-01  Matheus Hamutenya

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