21 February 2013

Namibia: Govt Calls Nantu's Bluff

SECRETARY to Cabinet Frans Kapofi says the government will not be "pushed around" after the Namibia National Teachers' Union gave it a two-day ultimatum.

Nantu threatened to take "unspecified action" if the government failed to provide them with feedback about negotiations on job evaluation and the grading system. They gave the government, more specifically the Office of the Prime Minister, two days to react.

Kapofi, who is part of the negotiations, told The Namibian yesterday that the union could go ahead with its plans.

He said the job evaluation and grading system was an initiative of the government and not the union's.

He said he had told Nantu's general secretary Basilius Haingura that they were still consulting with Cabinet on the regrading.

"I told this fellow [Haingura] early this morning that we are making arrangements for them to be briefed. He did not even tell me about their plans," Kapofi said.

He said if Nantu is threatening because they want to brief their members on negotiations, then they should leave the briefing to the government to do at the right time.

"For them to go wild is unacceptable. If that is the route they are taking, we can also take the same route and inform our employees ourselves," Kapofi reiterated.

Nantu had intended to brief its members on progress with regrading through the media yesterday but cancelled it at the eleventh hour.

Instead Haingura used the briefing to accuse the Office of the Prime Minister of not honouring its commitment to further consult with the union about the regrading.

The union said it wanted the government to give it detailed feedback on the negotiations by tomorrow.

Nantu's national executive committee was to meet this weekend and would decide what action to take if the government failed to give a satisfactory answer on regrading.

"Nantu is appealing to all its members to be vigilant and be on alert on any decision that the union will take should this call not be adhered to by the employer as per demand," Haingura said.

The unions and the government started talking about the regrading as part of salary negotiations last year but that part was taken out of the final stages because of the pressure from striking teachers who wanted negotiations finished.

The two parties agreed to meet this year to continue the negotiations on the outstanding issues.

"The OPM is cognisant on what was agreed and only the eight percent salary adjustment was implemented and the fringe benefits were not implemented due to budgetary constraints," he said.

Haingura described the attitude at the Office of the Prime Minister as an indication of ignorance and unfair treatment in the spirit of labour relations.

He said the parties agreed to constantly brief each other on the progress made for job evaluation and grading, but that has not materialised as planned meetings ended in deadlock.

The union leadership was last year criticised for its lack of communication with members.

Haingura said they will not accept excuses of budgetary restraints, adding that Prime Minister Hage Geingob should ensure that the negotiation items agreed upon are reflected in the upcoming budget which is set to be tabled by the minister of finance on Tuesday.

He wants the issue treated as an "urgency.

"The union believes there is a lack of commitment from the employer on this matter," he said.

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