The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has called the ongoing strike by its employees 'unreasonable'.
In an answering affidavit filed yesterday in the Labour Court, NBC Director General Stanley Similo says the persistence with the strike by the employees under the conditions in which the company finds itself is similarly unreasonable.
According to Similo, the employees, alongside their representing union, the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), knew of NBC's budgetary constraints but elected to embark on a strike. He said NBC's budget was cut by 62%, receiving only N$127.5 million for the 2021/2022 financial year which is a far cry from N$334.1 million received the previous year.
"The consequence of the strike has been that the first respondent (NBC) has lost much needed revenue. This is detrimental to the plight of the first respondent's employees," said Similo.
Adding the application launched against NBC is an attempt to parade it as a "callous employer" despite its attempt to put the plight of the workers first.
Similo rubbished claims that they have negotiated in bad faith and have withheld valuable information during wage negotiations.
"My experience was that the negotiations were held in a pleasant spirit. At all material times, the first respondent (NBC) acted in good faith during the negotiations," explained Similo.
He claims the striking employees have violated the striking rules by harassing the non-striking employees and management, blocking the entrance to NBC premises, damaging the image of the company by creating social media accounts under "NBC Workers - Voice of the Nation and Instagram handle #nbcworkers and deliberately misinforming the public of the status quo".
Last Wednesday, NBC workers handed a petition over to Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila demanding an 8% salary increase and decrying poor working conditions.
On the same day, Napwu filed an urgent application stating that at the beginning of 2021, the government, in a funding request to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), undertook to contain the wage bill of a selected state-owned enterprise (SOE) by implementing a wage freeze for the 2021/22 financial year.
In their application, the workers want an order declaring that the conduct of NBC and the government during the wage negotiations in 2020 and 2021 was unlawful, as it undermined orderly collective bargaining, and was in violation of the provisions of Section 34 of the Labour Act.
In an affidavit, Napwu's general secretary, Petrus Nevonga accused NBC of not complying with strike rules and making use of scab labour during a strike.
He argues the NBC breached the collective agreement and undermined orderly collective bargaining, adding the broadcaster and government engaged the union knowing that there was no possibility of reaching an agreement due to the contractual commitments the government had entered with the IMF.
"The conduct of the government and the NBC towards Napwu and the workers is dishonest. It shows bad faith towards the legitimate expectations of the workers and undermined orderly collective bargaining and industrial peace," Nevonga contended.
He added the current court application is urgent, as the workers who are still striking are not getting paid. Court papers indicate that at least 159 employees, as of yesterday, have returned to work and are not striking.
Napwu is being represented by Unomwinjo Katjipuka-Sibolile, with Loini Shikale and Nelson Mutorwa representing NBC and the government.
The hearing in the matter is scheduled to take place on Thursday.