ECN using apartheid tactics

Trade unionist Petrus Nevonga wants the ECN voter education staff paid, even though there are no signed contracts.

09 May 2019 | Local News

The Namibia Public Workers’ Union (Napwu) has urged the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) to pay voter education officers’ their salaries, in the absence of signed employment contracts.

Napwu secretary-general Peter Nevonga said the ECN not paying the salaries of 90 voter education officers, and forcing them to sign contracts while continuing negotiations with the union, was similar to the tactics used by apartheid’s South West African Native Labour Association (SWANLA) system.

Nevonga was responding to ECN chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro’s letter on Friday regarding the non-payment of the voter education officers, who are currently working without contracts.

In his letter to ECN Napwu chairperson Joseph Nghiilwamo, Mujoro said the ECN will not pay salaries to voter education officers until they have signed contracts.

“In light of the development, we urge the voter education officers to sign the revised contract in its draft form, while negotiations on the outstanding matters are being finalised. Once these issues are resolved, all officials will be required to sign an addendum to be attached to the signed contracts to give effects to these issues,” Mujoro wrote.

Nevonga said the ECN’s behaviour was brutal and contrary to the spirit of employment growth and good labour relations in the country.

The 90 voter education officers are currently working without employment contracts, after they refused to sign new ones when their two-year contracts expired on 31 March.

They have refused to renew their temporary contracts with the ECN, saying many of them have been working for more than 10 years and deserve to be permanently employed.

The ECN confirmed it is revising the contracts, while negotiating with Napwu.

However, the electoral body has been accused of forcing employees to sign contracts in their draft form, while continuing negotiations with the union.

On Monday, Nevonga wrote to Mujoro and expressed his shock, while mentioning that the ECN’s actions will have a serious bearing on this year’s national election.

“Your action is no different from the exploitative colonial system of SWANLA, as it is brutal to the spirit of employment and good labour relations in the country. Your malicious action is against guaranteed human rights and runs contrary to the stipulation and provisions of the Labour Amendment Act 2 of 2012, section 128,” Nevonga wrote.

“It is common knowledge that these members worked for the commission for the past few months without contracts of employment and the sudden change of attitude toward the contract employees is mind-blowing to the union.”

Nevonga informed Mujoro that the union is in the process of engaging the commission to find an amicable solution, to the benefit of both parties.

However, the non-payment of the workers has the potential to undermine the whole process and might further strain the relationship between the parties.

“We are insisting that employees be paid as usual, whilst the engagement with the commission is ongoing, given the fact that employees were already paid without a contract and (showed) patience for some time, whilst the parties are concluding negotiations,” Nevonga said.

Mujoro could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Namibian Sun has been informed that since their contracts expired on 31 March, only voter education officers in the //Karas Region and two from Khomas have renewed their contracts. The rest - countrywide - are continuing to work while claiming that the ECN has not communicated what the future holds for them. They have also not received their April salaries.

A source said they refused to sign another two-year contract with ECN because some of them have been voter education officers for more than 10 years, but the commission is refusing to appoint them on a permanent basis.

ILENI NANDJATO

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