15 October 2012

Namibia: Teachers Fed-Up, Threaten to Strike

TEACHERS angered by the delay in salary negotiations between Government and the Namibian National Teachers Union (Nantu) plan to stage a mass demonstration on Wednesday at the union office to compel their general secretary, Basilius Haingura, to report on the status of their negotiations.

About 500 disgruntled Nantu members who met at the Immanuel Shifidi Senior Secondary School on Thursday evening were adamant that a "strike is on the way", depending on what Haingura's response will be this week. That is irrespective of the fact that year-end examinations have started.

The Nantu Khomas region plans to spur on other regions to make similar demands on Haingura.

The meeting was organised by the Khomas regional secretary of Nantu, Dankie Katjiuanjo, who said the Nantu negotiating team has so far not informed teachers what package is being negotiated with Government.

"Someone is not serious with the negotiations. The negotiations are too relaxed. We want to push forward for better salaries for teachers. Mineworkers are living better than teachers. They say teaching is a calling, but is it a calling into poverty?" Katjiuanjo put it to a riotous crowd.

He cited "successful" industrial actions like at the Polytechnic, Namdeb and elsewhere that led to better wages, and urged teachers to go on strike if they do not receive positive feedback from the union leadership still engaged in salary negotiations since June.

The negotiations are focusing on job evaluations and grading, housing allowance, an inflation-related salary increase and medical aid.

The meeting said it wants the negotiations concluded before the end of the year.

Haingura, who denied the allegations made by Katjiuanjo, said the negotiations are likely to be concluded by the end of this month, and should they reach a deadlock, the negotiating team would go back to the union members for a new mandate.

"It is wrong to say that they were not informed," countered Haingura when asked if members have been kept in the loop regarding the status of the negotiations, and denied that the negotiating team has gone into the wage talks without a mandate from the members, saying: "We requested the regions to give us a mandate, which they did do through the structures."

Haingura said the national teachers' council was properly briefed after the first round of negotiations.

"My office expects them [the teachers' council] to brief the regions," Haingura insisted, and added: "I am 100% sure that those who attend Nantu structural meetings, know what is going on. The members know they have mandated us. I have proof of a letter that was sent to all regions."

Teachers at last week's meeting in Windhoek expressed a general sense of dissatisfaction over the manner they are treated by the government and parents alike.

They said the statement made earlier that they are not proficient in English is an insult, and that they cannot solely be blamed for the failures in the education sector.

"Teachers are being insulted during the day by learners, the government, and parents. It is time the government appreciates what we do; it is time we take action," said one of the Khomas leaders, Helvi Emvula.

An overriding sentiment was that the reported 14 percent salary increase allegedly on the table is too little.

"Teachers are living in shacks. We want more, and an increase in the housing and transport allowances. The leadership has failed us. We will keep our skills if Government fails to adhere to our demands," said one of the teachers.

"The GIPF [Government Institutions Pension Fund] scandal is still dragging on while teachers get hunger salaries," another said.

Teachers said the current N$490 000 housing allowance should be increased to between N$800 000 and N$900 000 which would allow teachers in Windhoek to afford decent housing.

Another demand made from the floor at the meeting is that retiring teachers receive a liveable pension that is exempt from taxation.

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