20 December 2012

Namibia: Civil Servants Will Smile This Christmas

Windhoek — Public service employees will be glad to know the government has honoured its promise to pay their backdated 8 percent salary increment before Christmas.

"We told them to be patient. Now they got their money and it is paid in accordance to their grades (salary notch)," Secretary to Cabinet Frans Kapofi confirmed yesterday to New Era.

SMSes started circulating since Tuesday midnight with civil servants sharing the good news with each other. The news brought relief to many civil servants who for the past weeks have been in the dark as to when they would get the increment that will be backdated to April this year.

The majority of the civil servants, such as teachers and police officers, were worried about entering the festive season penniless, having already received their December salary on the 7th of the month. The government negotiating team and the recognised trade unions, namely the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), and the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) concluded a salary agreement of 8 percent and other benefits for civil servants early last month. The increase places an additional spending burden of N$1.4 billion on the government.

The salary increase was discussed and agreed upon during the last Cabinet session for the year 2012 at State House, when President Hifikepunye Pohamba addressed his ministers. The increase was preceded by a nationwide protest by teachers and some other public service in the health sector.

The protest fizzled out only after legal action was taken against suspended National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) secretary general Evilastus Kaaronda, who stood firm alongside the striking teachers with the Interim Khomas Teachers Strategic Committee, which the teachers had formed as an act of defiance and to show their displeasure with their own unions.

The Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo, and the government brought an urgent application before the Labour Court on November 9, in which they requested the court to declare the strike illegal.

The teachers were restrained from carrying out an unlawful strike or demonstration, as well as squatting or occupying the Government Office Park, and were ordered to vacate the property with immediate effect.

Early this month, Kaaronda and members of the Interim Khomas Teachers Strategic Committee - Mahongora Kavihuha, the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) president Dankie Katjiuanjo, Elfrieda Mwagbo and Josef Katjingisiua - were found in contempt of court in a judgment handed down by Judge Collins Parker in the High Court.

In the meantime, the matter was remanded to January 17, 2013, when Kaaronda, Kavihuha, Katjiuanjo, Mwagbo and Katjingisiua will have an opportunity to testify in mitigation before they are sentenced.

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