15 August 2018

Namibia: Workers' Union Fails to Pay Salaries

NATIONAL Union of Namibian Workers' employees have dragged the organisation to the labour commissioner for failing to pay salaries on time.

The labour commissioner is expected to hear the case on 23 August.

Not only has the national union failed to pay salaries on time, but it has also suspended paying staff members' benefits such as medical aid, pension funds and social security contributions for three months.

Besides, the union owes municipalities over N$700 000, and has not paid its international affiliation fees amounting to over N$700 000 since 2010.

According to documents compiled after a meeting held on 14 July 2018, the NUNW is currently operating on an overdraft facility per month.

Staff members' tax contributions were also in arrears, and financial institutions have started to blacklist employees, the documents reveal.

Staff benefits in arrears amounted to over N$320 000, while outstanding tax commitments were over N$200 000, although the union deducted contributions from members.

According to the documents, NUNW secretary general Job Muniaro told the meeting that the cash shortage was a disgrace to the federation.

"This issue will also damage the reputation of the federation as a labour movement," the documents quote him as saying.

Muniaro yesterday told The Namibian that the delay and non-payment of affiliation fees was causing the delays in paying workers.

He added that contributions to the union have drastically decreased due to job losses, and the decrease in membership experienced over the past three years.

Muniaro said the federation was furthermore finding it hard to control and verify what is paid to it by the unions because they had no access to their membership data.

"It is true that we have a delay in the payment of salaries, but it was caused by the challenges we are currently facing. The situation we are facing is real. Sometimes, unions will tell you that they have lost members.

"So, affiliates are now paying three times less than what they were paying before. For example, where we used to get more than N$50 000, we are now getting N$5 000, and we are not getting it on time because unions are also not getting their membership fees on time," he explained.

"The 10% affiliation fees for us is also becoming cumbersome. As a federation, we don't regulate the amount we get from affiliates because we don't have control over the data of the unions' membership, so we don't even know how much we must receive.

"You thus opt to take what you get, and if it is not enough for the salaries of our workers, we are forced to find other ways on how to pay them".

Muniaro gave the assurance that the federation's executives were dealing with the issue as a matter of urgency to explore ways to find an amicable solution.

"It is not a good situation, as an entity which represents the interests of all the workers in the country. It is a pity, but that is the situation we are in. I don't know when it will improve; possibly it will improve with the economy," he stated.

According to Muniaro, the NUNW has no other means of generating income, apart from the affiliation contributions.

NUNW-affiliated unions are required by the federation's constitution to pay 10% of their income to the federation per month.

The documents also show that only the Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu), Namibian Public Workers' Union (Napwu), the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) as well as the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) have been making contributions to the federation in respect of the 10% affiliation fee.

Seven other unions, including the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu), the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau) and Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu), among others, have paid minimally to no contribution to the federation. The outstanding amount from non-complying unions is N$550 000.

The issue of the 10% affiliation fee was one of the reasons former NUNW president Ismael Kasuto was removed from his position last year.

The Namibian reported in 2017 that some unions had opposed Kasuto's call to comply with the 10% affiliation fees.

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