25 February 2013

Namibia: Teachers' Union to Sue Government

THE Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) is to sue the government for 'unlawfully' deducting money from the salaries of teachers who participated in an illegal strike last November.

TUN president Mahongora Kavihuha made the announcement at a press briefing in Windhoek.

Kavihuha said the union's lawyers had sent the Ministry of Education a letter demanding that it immediately withdraw the deduction notice to regional offices, dated November 4 2012, and that it must refund money already deducted from teachers' salaries.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, recently instructed all regional education offices to deduct money from teachers who went on the illegal strike last year.

The amount is calculated according to the number of days teachers were absent and their salary scales, The Namibian was informed.

Kavihuha also revealed that TUN is footing the legal cost of the strike. It currently stands at N$86 240 00.

"We are prepared to go an extra mile in defence of the Namibian teachers," he said.

The teachers were demanding a 40% salary increase. The Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) eventually settled for an 8% salary increase plus a 100% increase in housing allowances, improved transport and medical aid benefits.

Kavihuha accused Nantu of being manipulated by the government.

"Namibian teachers are suffering today because of the unholy marriage between Nantu and the government," he said.

The TUN president said, for instance, Nantu did not negotiate on the regrading system but merely accepted what the government offered.

Asked to comment on the allegations by TUN, Nantu's general secretary Basilius Haingura said he could not comment on allegations by an union "who don't know what they are doing".

"We have our own principles on how we work, they have theirs," he said.

Meanwhile, Nantu seems to be backtracking on its threats of last week.

On Wednesday it threatened to take "unspecified action" if the government failed to provide feedback on negotiations over job evaluation and the grading system. It gave the government, more specifically the Office of the Prime Minister, two days to react.

However, Haingura yesterday changed his tune, saying there had been a positive response from government.

Nantu's national executive committee met on Saturday and Haingura admitted that the NEC was worried about the negotiations over job evaluations.

"There is progress and we will inform our members soon," he said.

In response to the Nantu ultimatum, Cabinet Secretary Frans Kapofi last week warned that the government would not be "pushed around".

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