12 November 2012

Namibia: Teachers Suspicious of Leader

STRIKING teachers in Windhoek are up in arms after it emerged that the ruling party had used some former unionists to try and coerce their leaders into accepting the eight percent increase agreed between the Government and the bargaining unions.

The teachers got wind of reports over the weekend that Swapo member of Parliament Elifas Dingara allegedly had a secret meeting with suspended Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) Khomas regional chairperson Dankie Katjiuanjo in a bid to have him convince the teachers to accept the increase and return to work.

The issue was heavily debated by some teachers who met at a Windhoek school yesterday and who said they had received an SMS about the secret meeting over the weekend.

The teachers spoke with suspicion about the alleged Dingara/Katjiuanjo meeting while they waited for a mass meeting to start where Katjiuanjo was to address them. Some said they suspected Katjiuanjo might have been offered “something” to soften his stance on the strike, or to try and convince the teachers to end the strike altogether.

“If he is going to tell us to end the strike, we will just remove him and get a new leader who will fight for us,” the teachers said as they waited for the meeting to start.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Dingara would not comment on whether he had spoken to Katjiuanjo about the strike, saying only that the teachers had wrongly directed their action against the government.

“To go on strike is not punishing Nantu, it is punishing Government which is their employer and Government did not do anything wrong,” he said.

The salary increase and other benefits for public servants were agreed on by the government negotiating team, Nantu and the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) last week.

In addition to the eight percent salary increase, public servants also get a 100% increase in housing allowances, improved transport and medical aid benefits.

The teachers have rejected the agreement, adding that they were only going to stop striking once their demand for a 40% salary increase was met.

“If they knew what was submitted to the negotiators and the reasons for coming out with a lesser percentage, I’m sure they would not have gone on strike. The unions have realised that for many years they’ve been negotiating for percentages and this time around, they said they will concentrate on the salary structure, which is what we call regrading,” Dingara said.

The salary negotiations state that a “job evaluation and grading system” is to be fully implemented in April next year.

“With the regrading, everyone’s salary will automatically go up. A 10% salary increase has been proposed for next year for public servants. With the regrading, the salaries will automatically go up – that is what regrading means. This is so that by next year when 10% is given, it will be given on the bigger salary, a regraded salary,” Dingara said.

He said the regrading was agreed upon to avoid future strikes.

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