We won’t be bullied – unions
Members of the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu), both affiliates of NUNW, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike in a push for wage increments.
State House, in a late-night statement on Monday, called the looming strike “ill-conceived”, a remark that angered many civil servants – who have gone six years without increments.
Government has maintained a hardline stance on the demands, saying it does not have the resources to meet them.
“The Namibian government has been emphasising the fact that under the current circumstances, it is necessary for cool heads to prevail and to think hard about the socio-economic consequences of any industrial action on the part of the civil service,” the presidency said on Monday.
“Therefore, those who are gainfully employed should show solidarity with those who are unemployed,” it added.
Napwu general secretary Petrus Nevonga retorted: “Government saying they are not obliged pay striking civil servants is an intimidation tactic”.
Nevonga, who serves on the Swapo central committee as a representative of the NUNW family of unions, also took a swipe at labour minister Utoni Nujoma for wearing double hats in the ongoing impasse.
“The ministry of labour must play a mediation role and not take sides. They have compromised the ethics of their ministry,” he said, after Nujoma recently said government has no money and civil servants must thus shelve their strike plans.
In its statement, State House said government will not be able to grant civil servants’ desired salary increases because of the economic conditions it has had to endure since 2016.
It said government tried to rein in spending in an effort to respond to declining revenue.
“Over the past seven years, Namibia has gone through the most challenging period in her 32-year history. Since 2016, revenue declined significantly due to a combination of weak global demand, low commodity prices, protracted droughts and low Southern African Customs Union [SACU] receipts. In this regard, government undertook remedial action to stabilise the economic situation,” State House said.
The efforts resulted in savings in government spending approximating 8%.
Then, the Covid-19 pandemic eroded gains made to help stabilise finances.
“Our fiscal consolidation strategy was internationally lauded and the economy was projected to grow by 3% for 2020. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020 eroded economic gains and prospects for a recovery, with significant government revenue dedicated to fighting the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus,” the statement read.
President Hage Geingob had also made targeted spending cuts which resulted in savings close to N$200 million.
“In 2020, upon commencement of the second term, President Geingob reduced the size of substantive Cabinet portfolios including deputy ministers and special advisors to governors and ministers, and cut down on the benefits of political office-bearers, including the purchase of new vehicles.”
Due to a planned strike by civil servants, Geingob was forced to cancel planned state visits to the Caribbean, it read.
“In light of the unfortunate decision by the civil servants inside the bargaining unit to vote in favour of an ill-conceived strike, the president has decided to cancel state visits to Jamaica and Cuba in order to attend to the potential strike as a pressing domestic matter.”
Civil servants turned down a new offer in which the total value of benefits for housing and transport were increased from the initial N$226 million to N$335 million.
Out of a total of 81 856 eligible voters, 43 794 civil servants voted, with 42 216 voting in favour of the strike.