31 October 2012

Namibia: Govt Calls On Teachers to Return to Classes

Photo: New Vision
The teachers are striking over overdue salary increases and a lack of communication from their union leaders, who are engaged in the protracted wage negotiations with the government.(File Photo)

TEACHERS who have embarked on an illegal strike will not be paid during their absence from school, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joel Kaapanda, said yesterday.

The strike started in Windhoek on Monday and spread to other schools yesterday. A march on the offices of the Ministry of Education is planned for today.

The teachers are striking over overdue salary increases and a lack of communication from their union leaders, who are engaged in the protracted wage negotiations with the government.

Kaapanda held a press conference yesterday at which the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, was also present.

More than 1 000 secondary and primary school teachers countrywide have abandoned their teaching responsibilities since Monday.

The teachers have vowed not to return to classes until they get satisfactory answers over the progress of the salary negotiations.

By yesterday, teachers from the Oshana, Omaheke, Erongo, Ohangwena and Kunene regions had confirmed that they too will go on strike.

Ilukena said his ministry was going to obtain the records of striking teachers before deciding on punishment.

“Once we have all the information on who was absent and for what reason they were absent, it will help us decide on what action to take. The steps outlined in the Public Service Act will guide us on the action to take against those involved,” he said.

Kaapanda said the government condemned any “irresponsible and illegal strike actions” and urged teachers to have the future of Namibian children at heart and to return to work without delay.

“The continuation of the current illegal strike will leave the government with no alternative but to take decisive action as provided for in the Labour Act. These illegal strike actions have no protection in law. As a result, the government, as a responsible employer, reserves the right to discipline employees in line with the provisions of the labour laws,” said Kaapanda.

He said the government had taken note, “with great concern”, the increasing trend of illegal strikes by public servants.

The government only bargained with the the Namibia Public Workers Union, (Napwu) and Nantu, he emphasised.

He pointed out that the government had granted a general salary increase of 10% to all public servants on April 1, 2011.

“The government has made significant salary improvements for civil servants. During the same period, the government has equally improved the transport allowances, the housing allowances, and home-owners scheme for staff members,” he said.

Kaapanda reiterated that salary negotiations would be concluded next month.

“An appeal is therefore made to all public servants to exercise patience in order to allow the current negotiations to reach logical conclusion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura yesterday told The Namibian that despite the illegal strike, Nantu was still in control of its more than 15 000 members.

“We cannot comment on the strike because the Nantu procedures and objectives were not followed with this strike and therefore we distance ourselves from it. We expect every member to follow the procedures,” he said.

At another press conference yesterday, Dankie Katjiuanjo, the Nantu Khomas Region chairperson who was suspended by the union last week, said that the strike was continuing and urged teachers not to be intimidated.

“I want to tell the teachers to remain calm and not to react on the provocation of the law enforcers,” he said.

Katjiuanjo was reacting to threats by the police to remove teachers picketing at the Ministry of Education’s offices.

“Ignore them and say focused on our demands. The battle is on,” Katjiuanjo said.

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