9 November 2012

Namibia: Teachers Reject Pay Deal

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)

SECRETARY to Cabinet Frans Kapofi has warned civil servants and teachers refusing to accept a salary hike offer not to “doubt the government’s resolve to restore order”.

Kapofi said this at a media briefing yesterday where he announced eight percent salary increases for civil servants and teachers, which have been widely rejected by the striking teachers.

The eight percent increase is backdated to April 1 this year.

Meanwhile, nurses frustrated with the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), and the Namibia Nurses Union (Nanu) have formed an interim committee which will declare a dispute with the government in preparation for a possible strike on Tuesday.

The Khomas-based teachers who have been on strike for two weeks said they were rejecting the eight percent salary increase agreed between the government negotiating team, the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) and Napwu. Teachers from the Oshana, Oshikoto and Omusati regions have expressed the same sentiments.

The teachers maintain that they will not return to work until they are given the 40 percent increase they are demanding.

Close to 500 teachers held a meeting at the Eldorado Secondary School in Windhoek yesterday afternoon to deliberate on the way forward. Teachers from other regions also held planning meetings yesterday.

Hundreds of nurses and other health workers, including hospital cleaning staff, gathered at the Katutura State Hospital’s nurses’ home yesterday where they decided to go on strike on Tuesday.

The nurses, under the leadership of an interim committee, said they had had enough of Government delaying the regrading of their positions.

They said that they would give Government notice today that they want answers by the end of Monday.

Should this not happen, they would go on strike.

One nurse said: “We should not be threatened by political intimidation. They give us false propaganda.”

Tempers flared during the lunchtime meeting as health workers expressed their disappointment with the situation.

They said doctors would need to take care of emergency wards and urged all nurses to take part in the strike.

When approached for comment, Richard Kamwi, the Minister of Health and Social Services, said he was not the right person to talk to. “There are people who are dealing with these things – I don’t think I’m the right person.”

Abner Shopati, the secretary general of Nanu, said his union was not behind the planned strike and did not support it. “The position of Nanu is that it is not necessary to go on a strike now,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Director of Education in the Khomas Region, Thea Seefeldt, in a written correspondence this week requested the principals of State schools and hostel superintendents to provide her office with an updated report on the “absenteeism of staff members”.

“Information is also needed on the absenteeism of unified staff (school secretaries, cleaners, hostel staff) who absented themselves without permission to join their colleagues in the illegal strike action. It is required from you as head of the institution to indicate what disciplinary actions should be applied to these staff members with regards to their unprofessional conduct” Seefeldt stated in the letter.

The government negotiating team, Nantu and Napwu on Wednesday evening concluded the negotiations which, in addition to the eight percent salary increase, include a 100 percent hike in housing allowances for staff members below management, a 15 percent increase in transport allowances for staff members below management and an eight percent higher car allowance for staff at management level.

The negotiators also agreed that the job evaluation and grading system would be fully implemented from April next year.

An incentive scheme for attracting and retaining scarce skills required in the public service will also be introduced from April next year, as well as “danger and risk allowances” for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) yesterday led a march by close to 1 000 pupils from schools in Khomasdal and Katutura, which started at the Dawid Bezuidenhout Secondary School and ended at the Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School.

Nanso and the pupils are asking the government to meet the demands of their teachers so that the teachers could return to school for the examinations that started this week.

“We ask of Government to listen to the demands of our teachers. Examinations have commenced already, without those teachers striking, and this is negatively affecting the learners,” said Nanso general secretary Sharonice Busch during the demonstration.

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