The dragging salary and benefit negotiations between Namibia Standard Institute (NSI) and Namibian Public Workers’ Union (Napwu) can have detrimental consequences on the country’s meat and fish exports, The Villager understands.
The Villager has learnt from authoritative sources that if the NSI and Napwu fail to meet a consensus, the exporting of meat to the European Union (EU) will be affected as the testing centers in Walvis Bay are preparing for their external accreditation audits.
This, according to the source, would become catastrophic if an industrial strike arises, which means again that meat and fish exports to the EU which constitutes Namibia’s main market, will be hugely affected.
NSI’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Riundja Ali Kaakunga could not be reached for a comment as his phone went answered.
The current dispute is centered on the employees’ request for a hefty salary increment of 20%, which the Union reduced to 14%, housing allowance demands which was at 80%, now reduced to 65%. It has emerged that the NSI is refusing act on the demands despite having admitted that its employees are paid way below the market and even compared to other State Owned Enterprises.
The Villager is also reliably informed that Napwu declared an internal dispute, giving NSI five days in which to respond to the demands and as result of NSI’s failure to respond accordingly, the trade union lodged a dispute with the Labour Commissioner.
Napwu’s Secretary General, Peter Nevonga refused to comment saying, “I am on leave now and I am not in the office so I am not allowed to talk to you.”
Napwu’s Deputy Secretary General, Gabes Ambunba confirmed that NSI was given five days to respond but denied that the negotiations have reached a deadlock.
“There is a provision that say if the road you are moving on is thin then we can give them more days to respond. There is a recognition agreement that governs the relationship between the two parties. I won’t say the negotiations have stalled because even yesterday (Thursday) we were negotiating to try and resolve the matter,” he said.
Despite the fact that negotiations have been going for more than three weeks Ambunda rubbished claims that the issue has been referred to the labour office.
“Negotiations can even go up to a year but once an agreement is reached the payments will be done from the day of the end of financial year,” he said.
NSI’s employees have also said to be angered by excessive travelling, by some senior management members, to countries outside Namibia, which is believed to have become a second income for some.
“One senior manager is speculated to have accrued travel expenses in the range of around a N$100, 000 in DSA within 4 months. The value added by these expensive travels are unknown as there’s no feedback from the trips as required when subordinates travel,” a source said.
The two parties are using the UN DSA Rates System and additional allowances and the employees are not happy because the CEO and the Board gets 35% top up on rates, Senior Managers gets 25% top up while the Middle Management gets 15% top up and the lower rank (bargaining unit) gets 10% to up.
“Explanation to these vast differences are non-existent, there’s no justification as why these differences are in place and that’s part of the frustration why the employees feel that there’s huge gab in income between senior and junior staff,” another source said.
Another source also accused the Board of requesting the Ministry of Trade to increase their sitting fees to a higher Q2 which would put them in the same league with bigger companies.
The source said, they did this, yet they are claiming that NSI does not have funds to increase salaries for its stuff.
“The Board (NSC) has also been exceeding maximum and minimum meetings allocated per year by using tactical measures like postponements due to quorums, apparent deadlocks on decisions and also meeting during weekends.
These are just part of the reasons why the employees feel cheated by the management and thus would in any case go on industrial strike to have their voices heard,” another source said.