Labour unrest mountsBy: DENVER KISTING
A TOTAL of 784 labour cases were reported to the office of the Labour Commissioner, Bro-Matthew Shinguadja, during the last quarter – between June 1 and August 31.
A total of 602 cases were referred for conciliation and arbitration, while 182 were found to be defective.
This resulted in a number of strikes and worker disputes being declared. Evilastus Kaaronda, the secretary general of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), yesterday said there was an increase in worker unhappiness about poor wages.
“The uneasiness and discomfort has the potential to destabilise labour relations in the country,” he warned.
Labour expert Herbert Jauch said the main reason behind the increase in labour unrest is that negotiations are conducted poorly because parties are ill-prepared.
Secondly, he said, employers thought it was enough to give an inflation-related salary increase. “That is just an inflation adjustment and not a real increase. With such an attitude you provoke disputes and strikes.”
Moreover, there was “a huge gap between top earners and ordinary workers”. This, he said, “causes huge conflict”.
Another contributing factor was that some employers refused to disclose their audited financial statements to the unions and just claimed that there was no money for salary increments, he said. “And this leads to distrust.”
By yesterday afternoon, the strike at the Agricultural Bank (Agribank) of Namibia was continuing.
According to the general secretary of the Namibia Financial Institutions’ Union (Nafinu), Asnath Zamuee, the bank’s management and the union were battling to come to an agreement.
The strike started close to two weeks ago.
Earlier, it was it was reported that the bank’s board decided that it would stick to a 6% salary increase.
The chief executive officer, Leonard Ipumbu, earlier said that they continued negotiating.
In contrast to what Ipumbu claimed, Zamuee said management earlier agreed with the union to a 12% increase. The board only approved 6%.
At the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) a strike for early next week seems likely – also over salary increases.
PoN spokesperson Kaitera Kandjii yesterday said they regarded the imminent strike as reasonable. “Their demand is reasonable and justifiable. We would like to offer something but unfortunately we cannot do so. If the government does not come to our aid, there’s nothing we can do.”
The general secretary of the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (Napwu), Petrus Nevonga, said the PoN matter had nothing to do with the media at this stage.
Labour unrest also brews at TransNamib.
According to John Kwedhi, the general secretary of the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Natau), workers in the A band want a 33% salary increase, those in B 28% and those in C 21%.
TransNamib has offered no increase.
Kwedhi said a deadlock was reached but they would return to the negotiating table on Wednesday.
At Air Namibia, negotiations have resumed after a deadlock was reached last week.
Theo Namases, the managing director of Air Namibia, told The Namibian that the board informed management to inform the workers that a salary increase should be put on hold for a few months.
This, she said, was because the board, whose term started in July, was busy with cost-saving initiatives.
At the moment, the national airline had no money for salary increases, she maintained.
According to Helvey Uushona, the chairperson of the Air Namibia shop stewards’ council, the airline’s management failed “to negotiate in good faith and reach an amicable solution with regard to salary and substantive increment negotiations”.
She said that on February 17 this year, the shop stewards submitted a proposal of between 10% and 20% for salary increases, N$700 more for transport allowance and N$1 000 more for their housing allowance.
Since accepting receipt of the proposal, the Air Namibia management had kept quiet, Uushona said.