Unions baulk at pay cuts

Trade unions have slammed any notion of lowering salaries because of the state of emergency.

09 April 2020 | Labour

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK

Trade Union Congress of Namibia secretary-general Mahongora Kavihuha says a reduction of public servants’ salaries to ease the financial burden of the Covid-19 response should not even be considered.

Kavihuha was asked whether his union would discuss any potential cutting of the public sector wage bill

“Regarding government workers, there is no way we can condone or entertain the cutting of the salaries of workers. The public service is already underpaid. If their salaries have to be reduced, that will be a blow,” he said.

Kavihuha also discouraged the private sector from cutting salaries without engaging the union.

“What is obvious is that they should refrain from taking unilateral decisions. We are open for discussions with the private sector but for government, that is a closed chapter,” Kavihuha said.

Private sector

Metal and Allied Workers’ Union of Namibia secretary-general Justina Jonas said if the government were to encourage employers to cut salaries, its N$8.1 billion stimulus package would serve no purpose.

“For me, government is contradicting itself. It is talking about a stimulus package, at the same time it is saying let us negotiate the reduction of salaries. Is government withdrawing its original statement?” Jonas asked.

According to her, there has been no discussion of the matter between labour unions and the ministries of labour and finance.

“We need a briefing from the ministry of finance because they are contradicting themselves and confusing us. We are confused because government is not talking to us … maybe we are being represented by the ministry of labour at that level,” Jonas said.

African examples

Elsewhere on the continent, Rwandan ministers agreed to forgo their April salaries to fight the pandemic.

Malawian president Peter Mutharika also announced taking a 10% salary cut along with his ministers. “The coronavirus attack has a huge negative impact on the economy and businesses everywhere,” he said.

Several South African companies have announced salary cuts, which include estate agency Pam Golding, tech company EOH and media company Independent Media.

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