Teachers in Khomas Region yesterday vented their anger over what they termed ‘delaying tactics’ by government regarding their wage demands, and have given their employer until today to finalise the strike rules.
A handful of aggrieved teachers held a peaceful demonstration yesterday. They marched to the labour commissioner’s office in Khomasdal to hand over a petition with their demands plus a threat they will take unspecified action should the government fail to finalise the strike rules by today.
Teachers voted 95.1 percent in favour of strike action and the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) has been trying to engage the government since last week on rules regulating the planned strike.
Teachers countrywide voted for an 8 percent salary increment and improvements to their conditions of service.
The teachers who marched from the Nantu offices to the labour commissioner’s office yesterday said they are disturbed that there has been a delay in the drafting of strike rules.
“Drafting rules is not a difficult task and it can be concluded within one or two days. What is happening now is unacceptable. It’s our right to withhold our labour by going on an industrial strike in support of our demands,” said Nantu chairperson in the Khomas Region, Kevin Kahungi, who read out the petition on behalf of fellow teachers.
He emphasized that teachers have the right to strike and their right is derived from Article 21, Sub-Article 1 (F) in Chapter 3 of the Namibian Constitution, which stipulates: “All persons have the right to withhold their labour without being exposed to criminal penalties.”
Further, teachers say their right to strike is also stipulated in Section 74 of the Labour Act, No.11 of 2007.
“We have learned that our employer, the Government of the Republic of Namibia, through its negotiation team has been employing delaying tactics during the drafting of the strike rules. To date the strike rules have not yet been agreed upon by the two parties,” the teachers said in their petition.
Teachers also accused the labour commissioner of allowing delaying tactics during the discussions in order for their employer to buy time.
“We are fully aware that the office of the labour commissioner has been tolerating the employer’s delaying tactics. Allowing delaying tactics means to us that your office is on the side of the employer. Remember that justice delayed is justice denied. Your office is violating the Labour Act, which you are supposed to uphold. We are sick and tired of this type of attitude,” Kahungi blasted the labour commissioner’s office, drawing cheers from teachers who shouted that they go on strike.
The teachers demand that the labour commissioner take their demands for an 8 percent increment “seriously”.
Since the labour commissioner is the custodian of the labour law, teachers warned that the office should implement all sections of the Labour Act in full, adding that none of the sections that deal with strike, picketing and lockouts should be violated.
Moreover, teachers demand that the labour commissioner finalise, and allow two parties to sign off, the strike rules today, warning failure to do so “government must expect the unexpected”.
Receiving the petition was Henri Kassen, Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation.
Kassen said it’s important that both parties agree, and it is hopeful that the parties discuss the issue and reach a conclusion today.
“We want to commend Nantu and the teachers of Namibia for being peaceful and responsible, because I am a product of a teacher myself. We heard your concerns and the matter will be referred to the conciliator, who is appointed to deal with the matter. The conciliator is independent and has the power to determine the rules of the conciliation process, including facilitating the strike rules when parties do not agree on certain issues,” he noted.