18.10.2016

Biggest labour conflict since independence ended

On 15 October government and teachers unions, Nantu and Napwu, agreed a 9% across the board salary increase for the 2017/2018 financial year. The increase for this year remains the 5% that government initially offered, effective 1 April 2016. This means teachers, and all public workers will get the increase. The 9% is a 2% increase on the 7% offered for next year. The Namibia National Teacher's Union president officially called off the strike and urged teachers to go back to work. Although Nantu won a labour court case against the government on 12 October which gave teachers the right to strike, President Hage Geingob intervened and convinced the union leaders to accept the 5% now, and then get a 9% salary increase on 1 April 2017.
President Hage Geingob expressed gratitude that the matter was resolved and said the teachers who took part in the industrial action will still be paid for the two days of the strike. Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa thanked Geingob for his intervention. The Grade 10 and 12 exams that was postponed will be written on 31 October and 1 November.
Shortly after the agreement Namibia National Teachers Union's general secretary Basilius Haingura started a war of words saying the Education minister was not fit for office. Addressing the media at the union's offices in Windhoek, Haingura said Hanse-Himarwa's actions during the dispute do not show her support of the teachers as the line minister. The unionist charged that they noted Hanse-Himarwa going on to intimidate and threaten the teachers during the dispute, and that teachers want her out. “The sound working relationship, which educators enjoyed for the past 26 years, has been damaged. Nantu believes there will be no prospects of working together for the improvement of the education system of this country if the same minister will still head the same ministry,” Haingura stressed.
In an interview with The Namibian on 16 October, Hanse-Himarwa said Haingura has a personal issue with her, although the unionist yesterday denied this, saying he just spoke on behalf of the members. “I will never drag Nantu into this. This is not a Nantu issue. This is a Haingura issue,” Hanse-Himarwa said, adding that the 27 000 teachers should speak for themselves. “Let them come out and express themselves, not one person,” she added.
Meanwhile some teachers have expressed disappointment with the salary increase agreement signed by their union and the government, while others said they have no choice but to accept it.
Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura justified their decision with the inflation rate, which stood at 6,7% in June this year. He said they considered the country's financial situation when they accepted the 5% now, and 9% next year.
Criticism also comes from former National Union of Namibian Workers' (NUNW) secretary general Evilastus Kaaronda, who now heads the Namibia National Labour Organisation (Nanlo). The government, he said, emerged the winner after dribbling the unions, even when the teachers' union had the upper hand because of the strike. “The fact that they did not go back to the workers proves that they sold out the workers,” Kaaronda added. (Namibian, edited by SADOCC)

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