The Namibian National Teachers’ Union (NANTU)) secretary general Basilius Haingura has blamed government for hiding behind students and failing to directly address the plight of teachers.
Haingura’s accusation comes as the teachers are preparing to go on a nationwide strike action after an impasse between NANTU and the government following failed wage negotiations.
He noted that while teachers had learners’ interests at heart, there was nothing they could do because they are forced to go to work.
Haingura raised concern over the government mantra of “no work no pay” as a scare tactic to threaten teachers into calling off the strike without significantly addressing the outstanding grievances which saw 95.1% of teachers consenting to a nationwide strike.
“If you follow the government’s stance on ‘no work, no pay’, they are only advocating for that at the moment to threaten teachers, but in terms of the strike each party will lose if we do not reach a compromise,” said Haingura.
Commenting on the current impasse between government and the striking teachers following a breakdown in negotiations for an 8% salary increment, Haingura told The Villager that whether government would budge on the demands or not depended on its willingness emanating from its internal discussions on the matter.
“I cannot answer on the next move by government but that depends on their decisions because I am not in government,” he said.
With NANTU and government on a collision course, there are fears that students scheduled for this year’s final exams will bear the brunt of the massive collective industrial action as NANTU is calling for teachers to snub the marking of exams till government swayed in their favor.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Relations and Employment Creation Vilbard Usiku affirmed that the Labour Act makes provisions for compromise on work related demands while any possible stalemate is followed by the right for the labour force to withhold services.
“The Labour Act makes provisions for negotiations to take place and if there is a deadlock then it also provides for the right of workers to withhold services and that is exactly what the teachers are doing and of course government in the current financial situation can only afford 5% and they offered also 7% for the next financial year,” said Usiku.
However, the Permanent Secretary could not point out whether government was going to take any rapid action to save the many students caught in the fray lamenting the overwhelming vote for the strike as ill-timed.
“It’s just a pity that they thought it necessary to go to that extent. The children will suffer in the process. Of course one understands that the teachers want an improvement on their working conditions, government however articulated reasons why they can’t meet these demands sighting the current drought situation, the diminishing SACU revenue and many others,” he said.
While the 7% is signed agreement for next year, the Permanent Secretary pleaded for teachers to understand the current situation and call off the strike.
The demands that the teachers are making would result in an additional N$600 million to leave government coffers, Usiku said.
He cautioned that the N$11,3 million labour minister Erkki Nghimtina requested President Hage Geingob to authorise to be released into an account that secretary to Cabinet, George Simataa, created at the SME Bank for the struggle about two weeks ago should not suggest that government has money since the funds came from the Social Security Commission (SSC), he also clarified.