By Kelvin Chiringa
The Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) is bracing to hit government with demands for a double digit salary increment for teachers despite the economy’s continued to subnormal growth.
This will likely push the Hage Geingob administration to the wall as it struggles to impress the electorate with new job-creating projects ahead of elections this year as well as containing a ballooning public sector wage bill.
Given the election year, the jury is out on whether the President will buckle under pressure.
“We are not going to demand a single digit increase,” emphasised TUN’s secretary general, Mahongora Kavihuha.
He added that they have held various meetings with public servants where they planned to pressurize the government onto the negotiating table.
“In this year’s budget there was a zero increase for public servants. It was not even talked about in the national budget which demonstrates that there was no negotiation, neither was there any intention. What came out clear from the budget speech was instead of giving the workers money; they have to take the money away from the workers by doubling or increasing the medical aid. We have said no! Over our dead body! We are still demanding that the ministry should pronounce itself on the salaries,” he retorted.
In the meantime, highly placed sources have also disclosed to this publication that the largest teachers’ union, NANTU, has also recently held high level negotiations with the Office of the prime minister for a 4% salary increase. The union’s secretary general, Basilius Haingura confirmed the negotiations but denied that they were gunning for a 4%. “I am not aware of that 4% but what I can only indicate to you is that we are busy engaging them yes. I cannot disclose to the media because we are busy,” said Haingura.
At the same time, Namibia’s economic environment provides little room to wiggle while Moody’s projects a measly GDP growth of 1% in 2019, meant to close the taps on many quarters of contraction. But finance minister Calle Schlettwein has said if reforms are not implemented with speed, the growth could as well as stand at below zero.
Moody’s has also warned against an increased wage bill which is said to account for around 50% if the country is to manage its fiscal consolidation and turn around the economy.
This is also the albatross around the government’s neck as according to Moody’s, “(It) constrains the government’s capacity to cut spending and restore fiscal consolidation should revenue collection be lower than currently expected.”
Given these sobering realities, TUN is adamant for a pay rise and rather shifted the blame on government for causing an alleged N$200 billion capital flight to China.
Kavihuha’s reasoning is that government will have to avail the needed monies in order to stimulate growth.
This sounds like a tall order in light of the fact that GRN is struggling to increase revenues optimally while depleting SACU receipts have further punished the small open economy.
What also stands out is that the unions are pushing government to commit to an unauthorized expenditure, in contravention of the Finance Act.
The Act states “Subject to the provisions of this Act and notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law contained -(a)no expenditure shall be incurred as a charge to the State Revenue Fund; without the authorization of the Treasury.”
Meanwhile, TUN has said a committee of workers from various meetings has been set up as a result of national wide consultations with teachers.
According to the SG, this committee was projected to meet on May the 14th to pave the way forward.
It was unclear at the time of going to press whether the meeting had indeed taken place.
He has expressed that they believe in a wage-driven growth and flatly denied that government did not have enough money.
“One thing that we should understand is that when the economy is in a bad state it is the time that you pump money to stimulate demand, consumption and by doing so you are stimulating further circulation of money in the economy.
That is what causes the economy to recover.
The parastatals are being run by incompetent individuals who are not held accountable.
Those are the crucial things that bring the economy up and not denying workers salary increases,” he said. He also slammed the executive; judiciary and legislature as weak institutions.