With the motto “Pushing ICT Forward,” Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia(CRAN) is based on regulating the country’s communications space. But its workers allege the company’s moral high ground on internal communications leaves much to desire.
This comes after at least 27 CRAN employees recently dragged their employer to the Labour Court over bonus payments and alleged unfair deductions that were effected after management miscalculated bonus pay-outs. The case is part of a national trend – over a decade long – where workers increasingly turn to the Labour Commissioner for relief to recoup income they allege their employers have illegally withheld.
In official documents, the workers claim that the company illegally deducted funds from their salaries after an alleged wrong bonus payment.
They also claim that their salaries have been capped and therefore they do not qualify for salary increments.
Another dispute is that of overtime, they claim that workers who fall in the D band do not receive overtime payments.
CRAN chief executive officer Festus Mbandeka yesterday did not comment on the matter because “it is still before the Labour Commissioner”.
“You know these issues are not straightforward, therefore I am not in a position to comment because it is still being attended to,” he said during a brief telephonic interview.
Employees also bemoaned the fact that they had to sign employment agreements which makes provision for a performance bonus after a performance agreement and evaluation, which the company allegedly reneged on.
In 2015 the board resolved that the five percent bonus payment for the scores between 3-3.49 should be changed to 10%.
The board, according to documents seen, also resolved that the Performance Management Policy should be amended to reflect the resolution.
This was subsequently reinforced last year when the board resolved that the bonus payment be done in terms of the amended policy.
But on 11 October 2017, the same board rescinded its earlier resolutions and resolved that bonus payments should be done in terms of the old policy.
“As communication by management, the reason for the Board’s decision is that(they perceive the amendment of the percentage as approved by the previous board invalid as the whole policy should have been amended and approved by the Board and not only the table depicting the percentages),” narrated the employees.
The employees are now expected to repay five percent of the 10 % received in 2016, because of the misunderstanding between the board and management.
“If the Board had in mind that management must amend or review the whole policy and same was not done, it is an unfair labour practice for the employees to suffer the consequences of the misunderstanding between the Board of Directors and the management. There are internal procedures for disciplinary action in CRAN, which the Board should have used. Instead the Board is implementing an unfair labour practice by punishing all staff members,” said the workers.
They also indicated that the Board should not retract its 2016 resolution on the basis that management did not review the whole policy as they perceived should have been done.
“We submit that the alleged non-action by the CRAN management should not prejudice the employees and therefore the amendment of the table is valid as approved by the Board resolution in the years 2015/16.
Also note that, the budget as approved by the Board was approved taking into consideration of the 10% bonus payments”.
The workers wants the Labour Commissioner to declare the 2015 board resolution valid and that the amendments should apply for the 2017 bonus payments.
According to CRAN’s remuneration policy, the overtime claims and payments are allowed and paid in accordance with the Overtime Policy and the Labour Act. But surprisingly, the employees claim that such a policy does not exist.
The company’s remuneration policy states that only workers in the job grades A-C are eligible to claim overtime.
“It is submitted that this Policy, in respect of payment of overtime, constitutes an unfair labour practice in that is discriminatory to employees who are in the D band and above,” bemoaned the employees.
They also cited Section 17 of Labour Act which states that an employer must not require or permit an employee to work overtime except in accordance with an agreement, but, such an agreement must not require an employee to work more than 10 hours overtime a week or more than three hours overtime a day.
The employees claim that workers in the D band are expected to work overtime and therefore the overtime should be subjected to the company’s policy.
“This is more so, especially that the employees who are required to work overtime in terms of their contract, are in practice employees in D bands and higher.
However they are not paid for the overtime worked,” said the workers further.
The workers are therefore seeking relief for the Labour Commissioner to compel CRAN to pay overtime to all employees.
The company also stands accused of having failed implement a directive by the Ministry of Public Enterprises to pay CPI increases in 2017 to employees who are red circled.
According to CRAN’s remuneration policy, some employees have been red-circled because the Board feels they are being paid more than the maximum for the specific pay grade as recommended by the Ministry of Public Enterprises and are therefore not eligible for an annual Consumer Price Index increase.
“This policy has disadvantaged the employees so much that some employees have not received CPI increments for the past years despite the fact that inflation is increasing every year,” the workers charged.
According to the workers, the State-Owned Enterprise Governance Council(SOEGC) in 2011 approved that CRAN should be exempted from the SOEGC directive that all employees be eligible to market related salaries and annual CPI increases and that red-circling employees is a unilateral change of their employment contract.
As a result, the employees who were not considered for the CPI increase in April 2016, received the CPI in December 2016, which was supposed to be paid in April 2016, and their packages were adjusted.
The workers called on the Labour Commissioner to order that all employees should be entitled to a CPI increase as per the Ministry of Public Enterprise directive backdated and inclusive of all he years that CPI increase were not granted.