Nantu and government square off in court over remote teacher’s incentives

A ruling on whether government should be granted leave to appeal to the supreme court or not in the case where Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) is pushing GRN to pay teachers’ monies based on two agreements struck in 2009/10 and 2015/12 will be given in the labour court tomorrow.

Both parties met in court last week Friday where government lawyers submitted their argument to satisfy the court whether they had prospects of success on appeal or not. 

 Government’s decision to appeal came after the labour court ruled that qualified remote teachers were entitled to receive their incentives stemming from an agreement reached in 2009/10 as well as more money based on a second agreement reached in 2012/15. 

It appears government is seeking to excuse itself from having to fork out huge amounts under such a condition while the purpose of the incentive was to encourage recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in the remote areas. 

Sources close to the ongoing court battle told The Villager that if the case is to be won by Nantu, government would see itself forking out more than N$300 million in payments to teachers. 

“The issue which is in dispute was formulated by the Prime Minister herself in her letter dated 5 November 2015. It is that letter which led to this dispute being declared.”

“That issue is whether, on the interpretation of the two agreements, the effect of the 2012/15 Agreement was to “harmonise the two incentives into one” and whether the 2009 Incentive for qualified teachers lapsed “on the implementation of the 2012 incentive,” submitted Russel MacMillian who is representing Nantu. 

According to him, the second agreement, to which Napwu was a co-signatory, related to the improvement of salaries and benefits for staff members. 

As part of the agreement, it was settled that an allowance would be introduced for all staff members stationed at duty stations classified as remote and hardship areas. 

The effective date for the payment of the remoteness and hardship allowance was to be on the 1st of April 2015, according to the addendum to the agreement. 

“It is striking that there is nothing in either the 2012 collective agreement or the 2015 addendum thereto which states that it terminated, or was varied in any way by the terms of the 2010 agreement. In fact, there is no reference whatsoever to any component of the 2010 agreement,” argued McMillian.

He also argued that the 2012/15 agreement was negotiated by Nantu and Napwu and all employees who qualified for the allowance while the 2009/10 agreement was only negotiated by the qualified teachers in remote areas.

 He also submitted that the hardship allowance was different from an incentive. 

Nantu was also represented by Florian Beukes of Metcalf Attorneys and Advocate Eliaser Nekwaya. 

Meanwhile, lawyers representing government argued that the initial incentives for remote qualified teachers were not scrapped off but only extended to everyone else.

“What complicated the issue was when the 2012 agreement was made, they used a different term. The initial one was called an incentive for remote areas, the new one was called the remoteness allowance in hardship areas.”

“Our argument is there is no difference between hardship areas and remote areas, whatever you decide to call it. Government’s argument is for as long as you are in the rural areas there will always be hardship,” said Appolos Shimakeleni of Appolos Shimakeleni Lawyers who is representing government together with Senior Counsel Geoffrey Budlender on the instructions of Hafeni Hamunyela and Jabulani Ncube of the Government Attorney.