The Namibian (Windhoek)

21 July 2011

Namibia: Nedbank Namibia and Nafinu Cross Swords

THE Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) is gearing up for a showdown with Nedbank Namibia after the bank unilaterally implemented a 6.3 per cent wage increase for its employees.

Negotiations between NedBank Namibia and Nafinu over wages, housing and transport allowance began in January this year, but reached a deadlock after Nedbank Namibia responded to Nafinu's demands with a proposed 6.3 per cent salary increase.

Nafinu had submitted demands for a 12 per cent salary increase, a housing allowance of 25 per cent of basic salary, and a monthly transport allowance of N$750.

Asnath Zamuwee, Secretary General of Nafinu, yesterday told The Namibian that after they had submitted their demands to Nedbank Namibia, the employer responded with a counter offer focusing on salaries only, and ignoring their other demands.

Following the Bank's response, Nafinu declared a dispute with the Office of the Labour Commissioner, and the conciliation meeting between the parties was on Monday, Zamuwee said.

Nedbank Executive for Corporate Marketing and Communications Rector Mutelo has said that the two parties reached a substantive agreement in April, "in terms of which a salary increase of 6.3 percent for staff in the bargaining unit became effective on May 1.

According to the Nafinu Secretary General, Nedbank Namibia unilaterally implemented the 6.3 per cent wage increase, plus back-pay, while the issue was in dispute.

Zamuwee said that the Bank's representatives were however informed at the conciliation meeting that such unilateral action amounts to an unfair labour practice, and was ordered to reverse the implementation.

By such time, Nedbank Namibia had allegedly already circulated pay slips to its staff and could not reverse the payments and pay staff properly by midnight on July 20. Nedbank Namibia staff thus only received their salaries, minus the increase and back-pay which is indicated on their pay slips, at 12h00 yesterday.

Mutelo confirmed that Nedbank had been directed not to proceed with the implementation of the increases at the conciliation meeting, "pending resolution of a dispute declared by Nafinu."

According to Mutelo, this directive had a "significant impact" on Nedbank Namibia's payroll administration, resulting in the fact that salaries could only be processed at noon yesterday.

Mutelo further indicated that following the salary agreement, Nafinu made an "unexpected about-turn," and requested further discussion with the Bank's management which has ended in deadlock.

"With due regard to our staff, our position has always been to implement the agreement reached in April...and as a result, an executive decision was taken to implement the stipulations of the agreement during our July salary run," Mutelo said.

Zamuwee said that Nedbank employees work in the bank, some handle large amounts of money, yet they are underpaid, and some cannot even afford to purchase property.

The Nafinu Secretary General said that the matter is still in dispute that they are awaiting the conciliation to be finalised.

When asked if industrial action could be ruled out, Zamuwee said that a strike was essentially inevitable. "The overwhelming feeling from the workers is that they want to strike. The Nafinu Secretary General further indicated that Nedbank Namibia's decision to unilaterally implement the wage increase was an indication that the Bank was neither willing to listen to the union's demands nor negotiate with it.

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