16 November 2012

Namibia: Nampower Strike in Full Swing

NAMPOWER is counting on its SADC counterparts to bail it out, should the current strike by its employees lead to power outages, its board chairperson Leevi Hungamo said yesterday.

But, Hungamo said, the parastatal hoped that an agreement would be reached with the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) before a power outage occurred.

“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.”

They have put contingency plans in place to make sure the impact is kept at a minimum, he said.

About 500 NamPower workers countrywide downed tools yesterday over a dispute primarily about post-retirement medical aid benefits.

At the head office in Windhoek, around 300 workers held placards saying: “We want [a] proper housing allowance, not a kambashu allowance.” Another said: “A hungry man is an angry man.”

The workers vowed to remain on strike until their demands were met.

Mbanjanda Nguvauva, the MUN branch chairperson, said the workers were demanding a 10% salary increase, while the company was prepared to offer 8,5%.

Hungamo said that as far as NamPower management was concerned, a 9% salary increase was already agreed upon earlier this week.  “From our point of view, we have been informed that we reached consensus.”

The main bone of contention appears to revolve around post-retirement medical aid coverage. Nguvauva said workers demanded that NamPower should pay 100% of all employees’ medical aid contributions once they retire.

According to Hungamo, this would cost the power utility N$90 million for this year alone.

Moreover, this would mean a power price hike of about 4% for the already burdened consumer, he said.

NamPower pays 100% of the medical aid fund contributions of its current employees.

In addition, 48 retired managers who joined NamPower before August 2004 enjoy free medical aid membership, Hungamo said.

The company also pays half of the medical aid contributions of 509 retired non-management employees who joined before August 2004.

Hungamo added that 21 managers and 333 non-management employees who joined after August 2004 have to pay their own medical aid contributions after retirement.

He said the board had considered taking away the post-retirement medical aid perk, “but this was found not to be legally possible as this benefit was entrenched as a condition of service that can only be withdrawn through negotiation with concerned employees”.

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