• NUNW says there is nothing wrong with pursuing salary increases during recession
• Accuses SOEs of hiding their financials
The National Union of Namibian Workers says there is nothing wrong with labour unions pursuing salary negotiations while the country’s economy is on a downward trajectory, because companies are not honest about their true financial position.
NUNW secretary general Job Muniaro said the unions are cognisant of the financial climate in the country, but added that it is not an excuse for workers’ salaries not to be upped.
“Government came to us when the finances of the country started dwindling and played open cards with us, we understood and as you can see there has not been calls for salary increments, this means the unions understand when it is justified. But it does not mean because government does not have money the SOEs also do not have,” he said during an exclusive interview with The Patriot this week.
Muniaro also accused some SOEs of negotiating in bad faith and lacking genuine negotiation skills.
“You find some companies coming to the negotiation table with a resolve that they are not prepared to give more than 3% salary increment. That is not negotiation but imposition. When we negotiate we must start on equal footing and they must open their books so that we can see for ourselves how the company is performing, many do not want to do this.
But despite that, the workers know how much the company is making, hence we say the demands of the workers are always in line with what the company makes,” Muniaro said.
Muniaro highlighted that the cost of living continues to skyrocket and workers are the ones impacted the most.
“Food prices, petrol, water and electricity continue to increase, how do we expect our people to survive?” he questioned.
Napwu has been all over the place in recent months leading strikes at several parastatals and it has come under fire with some accusing it of being unpatriotic.
It successfully led strikes at public entities such as Namibia Qualifications Authority(NQA), National Broadcasting Corporation(NBC), Namwater, National Housing Enterprise(NHE) and University of Namibia(UNAM) have all gone on strike recently demanding pay hikes. Government quickly moved to avert a disaster by availing funds in some cases.
Napwu’s general secretary Petrus Nevonga recently said even though the trade union is cognizant of the inability of some entities to meet their financial obligations as far as remunerations are concerned, they are in many cases lenient to the employer during negotiations but the interest of the employees remains priority.
“When we represent, we represent people to earn and not to lose. When they go on strike, they want money. You cannot represent them for the course to be the opposite,” he said.
Nevonga added that strikes in their nature are not ideal as both the employee and employer lose a lot. Making reference to, Nevonga used the case saying workers’ demands may not always be met but it is the union’s obligation to demand for those.
“We are actually leaner but we do not expect it to be the same across the board with all employers. With government this financial year, we forego asking salary increment because of the real situation. It is because of that situation, but you cannot tell the employees that zero this financial year and the other. They will not take it because inflation is going up and they are finding it difficult as a result.”
He bashed out at institutions which are too dependent on government saying they need to venture into streams to generate revenues that they could use to pay their employees. Until such a time, he said, employees will demand and they will reach deadlock in negotiations because they cannot offer anything.
“There is nobody who wakes up and says they want to strike. People want to work. But when the cost of living is too high, they are bound to demand,” he said.
NAPWU has been a force in negotiations over the years and has somehow mastered a strategy in bringing government to its knees to bail out parastatals.
At the time when the country’s economy is limping, concerns are that the trade union is not being fair to the already strained state coffers. Some observers caution that the trade union will force every situation to a strike knowing very well that government would inevitably step in.