The Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) has revealed it expects the conciliator to finalise teachers’ strike rules and sign them off before 17h00 today.
Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura, in a memo sent to teachers late on Wednesday evening, said the strike rules would be signed off and notification served on the employer, labour commissioner and police.
The latest development comes after teachers in Khomas Region vented their anger on Tuesday over what they termed ‘delaying tactics’ by government regarding their wage demands, and gave their employer until Wednesday to finalise strike rules.
Haingura said that most of the strike rules were already agreed upon by both parties (Nantu and government) last week Friday.
He revealed that on Wednesday (which was given as the ultimatum by teachers for the finalisation of strike rules) the government had still wanted to clear up three aspects that both parties could not agree on. These were the location and replacement of striking employees and notification to their legal practitioners for interpretation.
“In light of the above, we could not agree with their request. We referred the [issues] to the conciliator who is required to determine the rules in terms of the Labour Act. We are expecting the conciliator to finalise the strike rules on Friday (today) before 17h00. In addition, we are urging you to prepare and be ready for action by mobilising ourselves,” Haingura noted.
A handful of aggrieved teachers held a peaceful demonstration on Wednesday. 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 Wednesday.
Teachers voted 95.1 percent in favour of strike action and Nantu had 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 had marched from the Nantu offices to the labour commissioner’s office, said they were disturbed that there had been a delay in drafting the 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.
Teachers also accused the labour commissioner of allowing delaying tactics during the discussions in order for their employer to buy time.
However, Henri Kassen, Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation denied taking sides with the government in delaying formulation of the strike rules.
Kassen said it’s important that both parties agree, and he was hopeful that the parties would discuss the issue and reach a conclusion.
Kassen said 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.