NBC Workers Threaten to Down Tools

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By Anna Shilongo

WINDHOEK

Hundreds of Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) workers dissatisfied with what they see as low wages coupled with long working hours have threatened to take industrial action today if they do not receive a six percent pay rise.

The workers that last year each received a nine percent pay increase now demand an increase of six percent across the board, failure of which they would down tools.

The employees last week held a meeting at which the overwhelming majority or 90 percent were in support of the planned industrial action, said sources.

The planned strike comes after NBC Director General, Bob Kandetu, promised the workers a six percent increase on top of the nine percent that was supposed to be paid last Thursday by the broadcaster that relies heavily on State funding.

According to reliable sources, an agreement was reached last year between Kandetu, the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and the conciliator for a salary increase.

During the meeting, it was agreed employees would get a six percent increase across the board but it seems Kandetu later back-tracked on the agreement citing budgetary constraints.

National Union of Namibian Workers secretary general, Evalistus Kaaronda, is aware of the pending strike. At a meeting recently at Oshakati, he endorsed the planned strike.

All parties were supposed to come together last week to implement the six percent salary increment backdated to April last year.

Against that background, it was agreed that all employees would take up a general strike.

They will not enter any NBC premises before their pay demands are met.

Neither will there be any services offered by the corporation.

Apart from the six percent increase, other issues like working conditions including a transport allowance remain. Shortage of staff and inadequate resources such as equipment are also among the issues on top of the grievances list.

The corporation was given 48 working hours to respond to the workers’ request.

NBC shop-steward chairperson, Kennedy Onesmus, confirmed last week’s decision to go on strike.

Onesmus said the union and management had negotiated for a six percent increase to come from the 2007/2008 budgets, but this did not materialise.

A reliable source also confirmed that the NBC had problems implementing the increment, which was agreed upon in principle.

“And management kept postponing and they kept coming up with conflicting stories,” said one employee.

The employees are unhappy and see industrial action as the best way to address their grievances.

Employees would also want to get answers from the management.

This agreement was supposed to come into effect last year but was postponed. Because of these ‘excuses’, some employees became so frustrated they resigned. NBC labour turnover is very high – about two to three employees leave the corporation per month.

Allegations of unfair labour practices such as nepotism, tribalism and favouritism have surfaced at the NBC.

Despite the NBC saying there is no money to effect a salary hike, its top management stands accused of undertaking extensive and unnecessary trips.
“This strike is going to affect the corporation badly, but who’s to blame, after all the wage increment dates back to four years ago.

“So be prepared, it’s not a threat but a warning, ” said one employee.

A meeting was held last night by the shop stewards, the union and the NBC management to try and avert the strike but failed to reach a common position and the strike is set to go on as planned.

Kandetu could not comment on the outcome of the meeting saying he did not attend and is waiting for a briefing on the progress of the meeting.

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