PM sparks hope for NBC stand-off

Govt working around the clock to find additional funding

20 May 2021 | Labour



Government is pulling all stops to find additional funding for NBC, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila told unions this week.

The PM responded to a petition by NBC employees in a letter addressed to the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) on Tuesday, saying government is seized with sourcing funds to ensure the national broadcaster meets its financial obligations.

NBC received N$ 127 million for this financial year, a 62% cut in subsidy compared to the previous year. With this cut, the broadcaster has told its striking employees that it is unable to meet their demands – which include an 8% salary increase and 24 months’ back-pay.

The no-work-no-pay strike has gone on for four weeks now, the longest such action in the history of the corporation.

While 165 employees have since returned to work, the majority remained in their trenches of defiance.

The strike has affected the flow of information across the country, including vital announcements regarding the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations.

The ministries of information and finance were now working actively to secure funding for the broadcaster, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said in a letter seen by Namibian Sun.

NBC not only one

The PM said the reduction in subsidies to public enterprises is a result of “severe economic conditions due to Covid-19 and the general global economic downturn”, and NBC was not the only one affected.

However, she added: “Funds have been allocated to various government institutions and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) based on the availability of resources. The line ministry is working closely with the ministry of finance to find a solution to improve the subsidy allocated to the NBC in order to enable the corporation to execute its mandate and continue its normal operations”.

The PM also informed the unions that the board had been called on to investigate any non-compliance with regards to corporate governance on the part of management, as alleged by employees.

“If there is evidence that there is non-compliance on the part of management, the board must take the necessary steps within the framework of applicable laws to hold management to account.”

Prudent and responsible

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila further instructed NBC’s board and management to manage the broadcaster prudently, the unions were informed.

“In the circumstances, NBC is expected to manage its resources in a prudent and responsible manner at all times. “Government has engaged the NBC board and management on the issues of resource allocation and utilisation to ensure sustainability of the corporation going forward,” she said.

The board and management were further advised to comply with the relevant labour provisions and practices.

“The NBC board, in consultation with management and staff, is urged to comprehensively look at the history and underlying reasons of the prevailing staffing norms and conditions of employment of various categories of employees, with the view to find a solution within the legal framework,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.

“Government is committed to finding a solution to this matter within the available resources to ensure NBC resumes its normal operations,” she added.

Employees deny salary numbers

Meanwhile, NBC employees yesterday took issue with salary figures published in Namibian Sun, as contained in a draft circular dated 14 May by the broadcaster’s director general Stanley Similo.

Dispelling allegations that employees are underpaid, the circular stated that senior reporters and producers are paid an average of N$33 736 per month, while chief reporters and senior sub-editors get N$41 446.

Editors and executive producers receive an average salary of N$67 055, the document stated. These figures were removed from the final circular shared with staff.

Johannes Lengi, NBC’s workplace union representative, said the figures were exaggerated and did not represent the true situation on the ground.

“I am a senior reporter and I am nowhere near what the DG has claimed,” he told Namibian Sun yesterday.

“Our stance is that if management paid themselves astronomical bonuses last year, they must go to the same source to pay the rest of us.”

“Government must investigate managers and we are ready to assist. This management team must simply go or NBC will follow in the footsteps of liquidated Air Namibia. So, it’s not just about money, but also preventing the company from collapsing,” he said.