…..NWR strike called off
…Negotiations to start again
Namibia Wildlife Resorts employees yesterday called off a planned strike over salary increments at the last minute.
The country’s tourism parastatal could have been in for a rough period over the next few days if the hundreds of workers went ahead with the strike seeing that operations at all its 23 resorts would have been affected.
The Patriot has it on good grounds that the union representing the workers, Napwu, and the company will restart negotiations.
“The Managing Director sent out an email yesterday afternoon informing the workers that the strike is off,” said a source privy to the situation.
Namibia Wildlife Resorts(NWR) managing director Zelna Hengari did not answer her mobile phone when contacted for comment late yesterday afternoon.
Some workers claim they have not received salary increments for the past three years and felt that they had no choice but to down tools.
Tourism experts have warned that any hindrance of operations during a strike at NWR will play right into the hands of private tourist establishments. A few years back there were calls for government to privatize NWR.
In a statement issued yesterday, Hengari said the company cannot afford to meet the workers’ demands of a 15% salary increment for workers in the A-B categories and those 12% for those in C-D category.
“It is a well-known fact that the company with its financial constraints could not meet any salary increase or any other benefit increase (demand),” said Hengari after NWR and NAPWU failed to reach an agreement on Tuesday.
The employees also requested for a 50% housing allowance increment for those in A-B categories as well as 45% for those in C-D categories.
The strike was expected to take place at NWR headquarters as well as all 23 resorts under its management.
Hengari said the company is prepared to give the workers a 5% increment.
“It is a known fact that the company with its financial constraints could not meet any salary increase or any other benefit increase. However, considering the cost of living, the company is willing to offer a 5% inflationary increase on basic salaries to all NWR staff. However, the Union Negotiation Team did not accept this offer, hence the deadlock,” she said.
In anticipation of the strike, NWR assigned managers from its headquarters to visit all resorts to assist the resort and camp managers during the strike which has now been called off.
Despite the company’s staff structure making provision for only 600 workers, NWR currently have over 1000 employees. The company says the staff overload is a burden to its financial coffers.
The company maintains that it remunerates its employees fairly and that its remuneration structure is the most favourable and competitive compared to other players within the tourism sector. “NWR provides its employees free housing at the resorts in addition to them receiving housing allowance, free and electricity plus free transport and food in some instances at the various resorts,” said Hengari.
Meanwhile, while other employees are awaiting news on increments, Hilma Johannes and Japhet Shikesho will have to follow events from their homes after they were suspended for making slanderous remarks and threatening Hengari.
NWR board chair Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu confirmed the suspensions in a letter without divulging further details. The two employees were arrested and charged for crimen injuria and will be on suspension pending an internal investigation and disciplinary action is needed.