20 August 2012

Namibia: NBC Strike Enters Fifth Day

Windhoek — The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) Director General (DG), Albertus Aochamub, says he hopes the nation-wide strike at the broadcaster - that has entered the fifth day today would be tabled in the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

He says the tabling of the NBC strike should be treated as a matter of "urgency". The DG said the issue has also been brought to the urgent attention of the Office of the President, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Attorney- General's office.

"We are sure there will be a solution soon," said the DG, as the strike enters its fifth day with no solution in sight since workers downed tools Wednesday midnight over salaries and other benefits.

NBC made provision of N$9 million in its budget for salary increments and other demands by employees but did not get the funds in this financial year from government, which led to a deadlock in talks between the union and the national broadcaster.

Yesterday, Aochamub said the corporation and the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joël Kaapanda, have been looking for a sustainable solution since the strike started that left listeners and viewers high and dry after its radio services and national television were brought to a standstill.

"The subject is not how much (to increase salaries) but how to resolve the (entire) situation," said the DG, adding that discussions between him and the Minister have been in good spirit with no animosity.

He said historically the NBC has been under-funded and it would not help to only increase the salaries, because come November, the institution could be asking for more money to run its operations and pay salaries.

Aochamub added that the broadcaster has shown an upward swing in terms of its own contribution to the budget, especially through advertising, and it was not because of wastage that the corporation was requesting more money.

The DG said that the strike has shown how essential NBC services are to the people, especially in rural areas where they depend on radio to listen to announcements about pension payout dates, auctions and community meetings.

He said that people were persistently calling in from the rural areas to find out when services would be restored, adding that those are things people residing in urban areas take for granted.

Asked if the corporation was incurring any financial losses during the strike, Aochamub said that he could not see how since they have made agreements with advertisers and would make provision to compensate them for the inconvenience once back in full swing.

He further said the fact that NBC is an essential service is an issue that has to be raised, because when the national broadcaster goes off-air, it makes the whole country vulnerable because national security is also at stake.

"We have to reconsider how we are secured," he added, saying that the NBC should be as secure as the State House.

Aochamub said just recently they did a risk profiling assessment on the continuation of service provision in situations when services are interrupted because of strikes or even major risks such as a coup d'état that was due to be tabled at the end of this month.

He said suggestions that the broadcaster had inflated the top management structure and were paying themselves lavish bonuses were a "complete lie" since the NBC adhered to the full extent of the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE's) Governance Act.

He said that unlike some other SOE's, the corporation had never hidden anything and supplied all necessary information on its spending, including sitting fees paid to its board of directors. He added that the NBC has also done surveys on what similar institutions were paying their employees and the bulk of staff at the NBC were paid well.

NBC employees, who spoke to New Era on condition of anonymity, were planning to hold a press conference today.

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