At times, it appeared the succession of strikes were copycats or that the success of one group fed into the actions of others to toyi-toyi.
What was also remarkable was that most of the strikes have been in the public sector.
And whilst bona fide strikes are about improved conditions of work or against (perceived) unfair treatment from the employer, at times the settlements sought by the strikers, in percentages, looked like cricket scores while our inflation hovers around five percent.
No doubt, there is at all times a need for the parties to strike an agreement which does not amount to “winner takes all”.
Recent strikes not only revealed the huge gap between the remuneration of the executive management, particularly at State-owned enterprises, and those at the bottom of the pile. But it also exposed the sheer wastage in the government system, preoccupied with toys for the boys (and gals?) at the top for which there appears to be no intention to reign in.
So it was only right that the workers at Agribank, for example, despite their poor dancing skills and atrocious spelling, deserved a rise!
The leaders of the workers, in the run-up to the Swapo congress, are locked up in smoked-filled rooms plotting and horse trading on who should or should not be our ruler rather than the welfare of their members. In any event, they have long sold their souls for 30 silver coins to politicians and an assortment of dubious moneymen.
The bosses of the unions sit on boards as shareholders of companies and toast with their newfound friends on the squalor in which the constituents of the unionists eke out a living. This is the reason why only deafening silence comes from their quarters concerning this overbearing plan of government to proscribe workers’ rights by means of this far reaching list of “essential services” – just in case the workers had the temerity to plan industrial action.
The inalienable right of the workers to legitimately withdraw their labour and the employers’ right, in similar fashion, to lock out the employees, is sacrosanct to our Constitution and therefore given practical expression in our labour laws.
The attempt by government to surreptitiously outlaw industrial action does not only smack of hostility to trade union action but will strike at the very heart of freedom of assembly and action which are cornerstones of our constitutional liberties.
In fact, their intentions are more treacherous. And for this reason to allow them to continue down the route they have selected will make nonsense of the sacrifices and gallant struggles which secured these very liberties for us and our children. It is therefore surprising that there is little action, let alone public discussion with regard to the intention from the side of this government to tear up the rule book as regards the right to strike. The struggle of the working people for a decent and humane workplace and hours, for the right to organise and strike are monumental and towering achievements of the last century.
For these reasons, we must draw a line in the sand at any attempt to erode these gains by any government. In this cause, there is only one side – and that is the side of justice.
Therefore, in a matter of this magnitude, it is the more important to form as broad possible a coalition – the coalition of the good and honourable – to organise in unison of purpose and action.
Coalition partners must educate and indicate how the erosion of freedoms in this area impact on the overall liberties of Namibians and undermine the culture we seek to nurture and entrench.
In a country facing massive unemployment, particularly among the young, government should not be allowed to send out a message which borders on “either you shut up or your next meal is at the dumpsite”. It should not be the business of government to hold the citizens of this country to ransom. That’s what lowly extortionists do.
In the type of system we elected, governments marshal majorities by means of argument. But sadly, in this case, government appears to run scared of dialogue.
But when all is said and done, it ought to be the representatives of the workers who must lead the coalition to roll back the onslaught on these age-old rights of the working people. We have seen how governments everywhere have attempted to roll back these gains in the self-serving cause of national interest.