CERTAIN municipal staff as well as State and private hospital staff will soon not have the right to strike.
The essential services committee of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare recently submitted a recommendation in this regard to Minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko.
Once Ngatjizeko gives the go-ahead, his recommendation will be forwarded to the office of the Attorney General after which a regulation will be gazetted, making it illegal for these workers to go on strike.
Union leaders yesterday lashed out at the move, saying it is irresponsible. "We are calling this government to order; they must respect the law," said Mahongora Kavihuha, the secretary general of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna). Paulus Ashipala, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, yesterday confirmed that the essential services committee had forwarded recommendations regarding essential services to Ngatjizeko.
This move will affect all hospitals - State and private - and all municipalities, Ashipala said.
Paulus Hango, the president of Tucna, yesterday condemned plans to have the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), hospital and municipal services declared essential services.
"There is no way that we will allow the Ministry of Health and Social Services to declare the whole hospital as [an] essential [service]."
If these plans go ahead, "this means that workers will not have the right to strike and if they strike, it will be illegal", Hango charged.
Last week, it was reported that the Government was considering "whatever means possible" to have the NBC declared an essential service.
The move was sparked by a six-day strike that crippled the services of the NBC last week and which Joël Kaapanda, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, said threatened national security.
According to Hango, this "constitutes abuse of power and position. The workers have the right to strike and demand the improvement of their conditions of employment.
"We shall do everything in our power to block any attempt by the two ministries to declare the hospitals and NBC as essential services."
Last week, Norman Tjombe, a Windhoek-based lawyer, said: "Declaring the work of the NBC as an essential service, and therefore workers would not be permitted to strike, will be unconstitutional. The right to strike for the purposes of collective bargaining is one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Namibian Constitution.
"In the unlikely event of a natural calamity or coup d'état, a state of emergency can be declared, which may then limit the right to strike during the state of emergency. If there is no state of emergency, then there will be no justifiable reason to take away the NBC workers' human right to strike to force the management into negotiating and accepting better working conditions for the workers."
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