By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, has challenged the Namibia Nurses Union (Nanu) to take their grievances to the Namibian High Court. Shangula said the Nanu dispute with the government is one of rights, and the best way to resolve this matter is through the courts. The Permanent Secretary made the remarks at a meeting he called Wednesday to respond to a petition which was handed to the Ministry last week. As usual, the majority of the nurses again decided to boycott the meeting and only less than 20 nurses were in attendance. Despite the absence of most of the nurses, Shangula still responded to the grievances which were in the petition and stated that of the 11 points raised only four had any merit, while the rest were false allegations. Shangula said one of the demands in the petition was that they (nurses) were looking for an audience with him, and yet they boycott meetings. “It is not possible to talk to the ministry if you boycott the meetings with the ministry.” The PS further noted that some of the demands from Nanu had nothing to do with the ministry, and his ministry had already forwarded the petition to the Office of the Prime Minister. He said issues such as the election between Nanu and Napwu on who is the sole bargaining agent and the proposed salary structure and grade levels, are beyond the ministry’s mandate. “The office of the PM directed that review of grades should be done through the Joint Negotiating Team until such time as there is a general review of grades in the whole public service, and that is why I am advising Nanu to take that route.” Shangula further warned the nurses that if the matter is finally resolved, there would be repercussions. “If it turns out that government paid out wrongly by underpaying the nurses, the government will pay the nurses what is owed to them.” However, he also cautioned that if government paid out wrongly by overpaying the nurses, the same principle would apply, and government would always honour its own laws. Shangula also warned that nurses should not allow themselves to be misused as the ministry has been informed that the current standoff is not purely a labour issue. “It is loaded with political undertones, and my advice to you is to keep it a labour issue.” He stated that, in terms of the law, nurses stand to lose a lot if they do not calculate every step carefully. A member of Nanu said the nurses boycotted the meeting again because the nurses gave the petition to the ministry through Nanu, and thus the ministry should have answered the petition through Nanu. The nurses gave the ministry an ultimatum of 30 working days on December 6, 2006 and have threatened a nationwide strike if their demands are not met.
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