The Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, has warned all teachers to vote wisely and to consider the consequences of voting in favour of imminent strike action. The “no work, no pay policy” will apply, she said yesterday.
Voting by hundreds of teachers affiliated to the Namibian National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) on whether to go on strike is expected to start today and will continue until next Thursday (from September 6 to 15).
Teachers, heads of department, school principals and inspectors of education are eligible to vote on the issue.
Minister Hanse-Himarwa warned that all employees, who opt to strike, would lose their income during the period they are on strike and this would affect other fringe benefits.
She said the Labour Act stipulates that, “by taking part in a strike or a lockout… a person does not commit a delict or a breach of contract, but an employer is not obliged to remunerate an employee for services that the employee does not render during a strike or lockout in compliance with this chapter.”
In addition, Hanse-Himarwa said employees who opt to remain at work and continue with their normal duties would be remunerated accordingly. Such employees, she said, should not be prevented from working, or be intimidated by those who opt to strike.
“The conciliator remains seized with the dispute throughout and it is our hope that both Nantu and government will continue to engage each other in order to avoid a situation that could lead to the disadvantage of the Namibian child.
“A strike will result in serious disruption of teaching and learning. It is exam period now and as such the examination session will be disrupted and our learners will be traumatised psychologically, and further endure irreversible disadvantages,” she said.
She pointed out that salaries of teachers in Namibia compare favourably with South Africa and Botswana, which have lower inflation rates, and called upon Nantu and the entire teaching fraternity to appreciate the challenges to government posed by their demand of more than 5 percent, which is beyond the ability of the government to currently afford.
She called on all teachers not to vote in favour of strike action, saying government will fulfill the agreement of raising educators’ wages by 5 percent during this financial year and by 7 percent during the next financial year.
“The government thus urges Nantu and the teaching fraternity to carefully consider the implications of their actions on the future of the Namibian child and the development of the land of the brave,” she noted.
Teachers initially demanded a 12 percent increase across the board. For the 2016/2017 financial year government proposed a 10 percent salary increment for the top bracket, five percent for grades 12 to 5 and four percent for grades 4 to 1.
Both the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) and Nantu members rejected the offer, saying it is an insult. Nantu declared a dispute with government after negotiations over the issue reached a deadlock.
The union also rejected government’s proposed five percent increase, while the government would not give in to the union’s eight percent demand.
The education minister said the challenges facing teachers are widely recognised and acknowledged – from the most remote to the most urbanised teacher – hence the tireless efforts by government to regularly increase the salaries and benefits of teachers.
“The government of Namibia and the ministry under my watch is indeed sympathetic and considerate of the hardships faced by some employees in general and the teacher, in particular; hence, our conscious efforts and commitment to improve the livelihoods of all Namibians in order to propel them to prosperity.
“We cannot deny that the Namibian education system and fraternity is faced with numerous challenges, which need urgent parallel attention from the State. However, it must be appreciated that those [challenges] are competing with equally critical needs in other sectors of government,” she maintained.