By: Joseph Ilonga
The Public Service Union of Namibia (PSUN) deputy secretary Ujama Kaahangoro, has criticised the bargaining bodies representing public servants for failing to consult them before agreeing to a 3% basic salary, an 11% increase in housing and 14% increase in transport allowances for employees below management in government. The Namibia Public Workers Union ( Napwu) secretary-general Petrus Nevonga signed an agreement with the government yesterday to increase public servants wages and housing and transport allowances. In terms of the agreement, employees will not engage in the envisaged strike. In response to the agreement reached between the government and the unions, Kaahangoro called on public servants to hand over their bargaining power to the union in order to improve representation and promote social justice for all. Kaahangoro stated that Napwu and Nantu negotiated in bad faith and deliberately ignored the workers. “That lack of consultation is already an indication that you have no regard to the people that you are representing. If you are linking your labour movement objectives to that of politics, you will be compromised and this is evident to what we have seen from Napwu and Nantu. That is why we are encouraging the civil servants to shift their power to an independent trade union for better representation and promotion of social justice for all,” remarked Kaahangoro adding that for the two bargaining unions to sign an agreement without consulting the public servants and rest of government employees is disrespectful. Kaahangoro stated that if Napwu knew they were going to compromise on their initial bargaining position, they should have gone back to the members they are representing and gauged their feelings and convinced the workers. Kaahangoro further noted that the two unions are aware that they do not have a single right to make decisions on behalf of the civil servants. In addition, a trade unionist, Olsen Kahiriri claimed that the entire voting process, in which over 42 000 government employees supported the strike, was a waste of resources. Kahiriri also said that if government employees believe the trade unions did not adequately represent them throughout the collective bargaining process, they can take legal action against Napwu and Nantu. “The powers not to accept that salary increase is still with them (civil servants). They have the prerogative in terms of section 49 (1b) of the Labour Act, that if a trade union has not properly represented its members within a specific bargaining unit, they have the right to take that trade union to the labour commissions' office.” Kahiriri stated that the same government employees who voted in favour of the strike can go on an illegal strike. Kahiriri claims that the government will not have the capacity to institute disciplinary action against the thousands of workers involved. According to Napwu’s general secretary Petrus Nevonga, the 3 % salary increment for civil servants was the best the government could offer given its limited financial resources and the state of the economy.