Returning NBC workers ‘have bills to pay’
Originally, 67 employees had stayed away from the strike, but as of yesterday morning, the number has increased to 165 amid a barrage of public ridicule against those returning.
19 May 2021 | Labour
NBC average salaries per month
Senior reporters/producers - N$33 736
Chief reporters/senior sub-editors - N$41 446
Editor/executive producer - N$67 055
13th cheque equal to basic salary
Housing subsidy (36% employee contribution [EE], 64% employer contribution [ER])
Medical aid (29% EE, 71% ER)
Pension (5%, 7%, 9% or 12% EE; 16% ER)
Group life policy for employees (50% EE, 50% ER)
Mortgage bond protection plan (100% ER)
Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) employees who have aborted their participation in the ongoing strike and returned to work said they would struggle to pay their monthly bills if they stayed away from work for too long.
The strike, the longest in the history of the national broadcaster, is premised on the principle of “no work, no pay”.
Based on that rule, striking employees are not only deprived of their salaries but all other benefits to which NBC contributes financially, such as medical aid and pension plans.
This has proven to be a thorn in the side of some employees, who said they have no alternative financial options to fall on.
As such, some have returned to work, citing an inability to survive without pay.
At the beginning of the strike, 67 employees indicated that they were not participating. This figure increased to 131 by 6 May and might have increased even more since then.
Those who returned to work have endured verbal assaults by their striking colleagues for ‘selling out’ on the demands for better working conditions.
“We are labeled ‘traitors’ by our colleagues who are on strike, but personal circumstances differ from employee to employee,” a worker who returned to work recently told Namibian Sun this week.
“There are those who can still afford their bills even if they don’t get paid, but some of us cannot. I don’t have N$11 000 stashed somewhere to fulfil my monthly deductions such as medical aid and others.”
Another employee cited his looming rental bill as the reason he returned to work.
In a recent circular seen by Namibian Sun, NBC’s management has disputed assertions that employees are underpaid.
“In the case of NBC’s news permanent staff alone, the reporters/senior reporters/producers/sub-editors job family earns on average a total remuneration package of N$33 736.02 per month, while the chief reporters/senior sub-editor/bulletin editor/senior producer job family an average of N$41 446.17 per month. The editor/executive producer job family earns an average of N$67 055.29 per month,” it read.
“These amounts include, amongst others, an 13th cheque, which is equal to the basic salary, a housing subsidy, medical aid, pension, a group life policy for employees and a mortgage bond protection plan as well as cellphone and monthly non-cash cellphone allowances for those who qualify due to operational requirements.”
NBC’s wage bill for its 523 employees, with almost 80 managers, takes up nearly 70% of the broadcaster’s operational costs.
Northern region unrepentant
Meanwhile, NBC employees based in the northern regions said they will not give in to intimidation and will continue to strike.
Six employees, four of them permanently employed and one of them a manager, are back at work. This while a total of 32 employees remain on strike, five of them contract workers.
Speaking to Namibian Sun on Monday on behalf of the northern striking employees, Samuel Shikesho, NBC chairperson and shop steward at Oshakati, said they will remain on strike until their demands are met.
The strike started on 22 April and, close to four weeks later, no agreement is in sight.
NBC had its subsidy from government slashed by 62% and the company said if employee demands – which include an 8% salary increase and 24 months of back payments – are met, the broadcaster will have to embark on massive retrenchments.
NBC board chairperson Lazarus Jacobs declined to comment on operational matters pertaining to the broadcaster pending a legal challenge that had been brought about by the Namibia Public Workers Union.
Partially back on air
After weeks of being off air, several NBC stations have started broadcasting again after some of their staff members returned to work.
These include the 20:00 TV prime news, National Radio (English service) and Tirelo Ya Sechaba (Setswana service), while Kati FM (Oshiwambo service) might be back on air this Friday, according to inside sources.