Search for stand-in teachers is illegal

Labour expert warns the government

30 September 2016 | Labour

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The government’s attempt to replace striking teachers is unlawful and could incite anger and violence, says labour expert Herbert Jauch.

The Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation has requested the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) to put instructors on stand-by to supervise school examinations in the event of a strike.

The teachers are demanding an 8% salary increase while the government has offered 5%. This has led to teachers unanimously voting for strike action.

Nantu and a team of government officials are now compiling a list of rules for the strike and were expected to be finished by Thursday last week.

However Nantu on Wednesday issued a memorandum indicating that they had failed to agree on several issues.

“We are expecting the conciliator to finalise the strike rules by Friday, 30 September 2016 before 17:00. On that same day, the rules will be signed off and the notification [of strike] will be served on the employer as well as the Labour Commissioner and Namibian police,” the Nantu memo stated.

Meanwhile, in a letter to NTA chief executive officer Jerry Beukes, the higher education ministry requested the NTA to provide instructors to stand ready to render invigilation services at schools across the country.

The letter stated that the ministry was preparing for the envisaged teachers’ strike in solidarity with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.

“The education of the Namibian child is at stake and the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation would like, along with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, to safeguard the 2016 Grade 10 and 12 examinations to ensure minimum disruption,” it stated.

The letter emphasised the importance of these examinations to learners’ academic progress.

Labour researcher Herbert Jauch said this action by government was not only disappointing but in direct violation of the provisions of the Labour Act.

The Labour Act of 2004, Section 76 (b) states that an employer may not hire any individual to perform the work of a striking or locked-out employee.

“If the teachers take the matter to court, there can be an interdict issued. The use of language in the law is very strong. It does not say ‘may be’, but instead uses ‘must not’. It is very disappointing that such action is being contemplated,” said Jauch.

Jauch said there seems to be very little willingness by the government to find a solution to the pay dispute.

“If government wants to mitigate the consequences then they need to return to the table to renegotiate with the teachers. Otherwise this will inflame the dispute, it may lead to more anger, hardened attitudes and possibly even violence,” Jauch warned.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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