14 November 2012

Namibia: Nampower Prepares for a Strike

A MEETING is scheduled for today to try and avert a strike which is scheduled to start at NamPower tomorrow morning.

A MEETING is scheduled for today to try and avert a strike which is scheduled to start at NamPower tomorrow morning.

Mbanjanda Nguvauva, the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) branch chairperson, yesterday said that NamPower was served with a notice to strike on Monday.

But, he said, a meeting was held yesterday to try and resolve the dispute. No solution was reached and another meeting would take place today, he said.

Nguvauva said the workers demanded a 10% salary increase, while the company was prepared to offer 8,5%.

NamPower Managing Director Paulinus Shilamba late yesterday said they agreed on nine per cent salary increase but did not agree on other issues.

Workers want their housing allowance increased by 20%. For grade 10 to 12 workers, NamPower offered 8,5% and 10% for workers in grades 13 to 17, according to Nguvauva.

Shilamba said the union accepted in principle a 10% housing increase for grade 10 to 12 workers and 15% for those at grade 13 to 17 while those at grade 18 will get 35%.

Currently, NamPower management get 100% of their medical aid contributions paid by the parastatal when they retire or are declared medically unfit to work, while other employees who joined NamPower before August 2004 have half of their medical aid contributions paid.

Those employees who joined NamPower after August 2004 and are not managers receive no medical aid contribution after retirement, Nguvauva said.

Workers are demanding that everyone should be treated the same, the union leader said.

Shilamba said the union agreed to an adjustment to 6,5% for grades one to six while employees in Grade 7 - 9 will receive a 7.5%.

“Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Union has in principle accepted the improved offer from the company, the two parties could not reach an agreement on the union’s demand for the extension of a 100% medical subsidy benefit to all staff in the company to post retirement period,” Shilamba said.

Currently about 60% of the workforce (employees who joined the company before August 2004) has a medical subsidy as a post retirement benefit. This benefit was discontinued for staff members who joined the company after August 2004, as it was found to be unsustainable in the long term, he said.

He said the position was re-confirmed by an independent consultant last year, who recommended to the Board of Directors that the option of extending this benefit to all employees in the post retirement period not be considered as it will have a negative impact on the balance sheet of the company.

“Should the NamPower Board reverse its decision and accept the union’s demand in its current form, the additional medical aid liability to NamPower will be approximately N$90 million in 2012 alone, which the company cannot afford.The company has however proposed, as a way forward, that this matter be investigated further in more detail jointly between the two parties before a final decision can be made. Unfortunately, this proposal was rejected by the union,” he said.

Shilamba said they were not aware of any company in Namibia or elsewhere in the world that has a 100% medical subsidy for employees during employment as well during retirement.

“The industrial action will affect our operations and our mandate of ensuring that power is generated, transmitted and supplied to all our customers in the country and beyond. We would however like to assure our customers that we have put contingency measures in place and will endeavour, with minimum resources at our disposal, to ensure that the impact on the supply of electricity to the national economy during the period of the industrial strike is kept to an absolute minimum,” he said.

He said talks with the union will continue with the hope of finding a solution.

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