18 October 2012

Namibia: Nurses Join Strike Bandwagon

NURSES at the Windhoek State Hospital are threatening a strike if the regrading of their jobs is not finalised.

At a meeting at the Katutura Nurses' Home yesterday, the nurses said that the regrading had been in the pipeline for a long time.

The nurses were very clear about their unhappiness. "We are hungry and angry," some shouted. "We want money," they said.

Some nurses said that the public had complained about the deteriorating services at the country's hospitals. "We are rude, because we are hungry," one nurse said.

According to the Namibian Nurses Union's (Nanu's) secretary general, Abner Shopati, nurses staged a national protest in July last year to demand the regrading of health workers' jobs. The next month, a meeting was called to attend to the request. He told the hall filled with nurses and hospital workers that he was the chairperson of a committee that would inform them of new developments regarding the regrading.

"We were told that information will be made available in monetary terms. This information would have been released in April this year. So far nothing has happened," he told the crowd.

He said the appointment of a new permanent secretary for the Ministry of Health was one of the major stumbling blocks preventing the release of the regrading document.

According to Shopati, the Prime Minister's Office recently informed him that they would have to appoint a consultant to finalise the process before anything could be released.

"That will take ten years," someone shouted from the crowd again.

"I have now spoken with the assistant of the new permanent secretary this Monday, who was unavailable. I said we want to hear something from them during this week. Up up to now, we have heard nothing," he said.

Speaking of the nurses' justified frustration, Shopati said: "I have nursing at heart, we are suffering. We see now that the union [Napwu] and Government are negotiating, but our own negotiators don't even know what they are negotiating. This is a question of bread and butter for all of us. We must take action countrywide, starting in Windhoek.

"We are demanding regrading, not only for nurses but for all members in the public service. Do we want an unknown salary increment? No, we want this lady called regrading.

"It seems that the money is available. There is a secret deal between Government and Cuba. They are able to pay the Cuban nurses but they do not have the money to pay us."

Shopati and the nurses agreed that he would approach Health Minister Richard Kamwi or the permanent secretary, Andrew Ndishishi, tomorrow.

He said health workers wanted to know in writing when the regrading document would be released.

"If they fail to answer us, we will strike on Monday. What we want to do is illegal. But I am not afraid. We must stand together. We are fighting for results. I will go to Ndishishi and tell him to make a commitment in writing on when he will grade us. Or he should come himself to listen to us. If he refuses, then we have a case," Shopati said. "If they fail to come to us, we will go to them!"

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