The Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) yesterday announced they have agreed to the five percent salary increment proposed by government for its members, while the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) said it needed a ‘way out’ of the current stalemate it has with government.
Nantu president Simeon Kavila yesterday led a contingent of leaders of the teachers’ union to State House, where talks with President Hage Geingob and other senior leaders of government ensued into the early hours of last night.
Before journalists were asked to leave the boardroom where the meeting was taking place, Nantu reiterated the call by their members – the teachers – for an eight percent salary increase, which government all along maintained it could not afford.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday said government was only able to afford what it had offered, while President Hage Geingob explained a raft of factors – internal and external – that have placed government in a delicate financial position to afford the required N$600 million to meet teachers’ demands.
Perhaps slight relief on the part of government came with the news that Napwu – which represents public servants – has accepted the five percent increment offered by government.
General secretary of Napwu Peter Nevonga said his union studied the current economic situation in the country and convinced members to accept what was on the table.
It is an ideal attitude that Geingob wished Nantu could adopt as negotiations continued last night, amid a nationwide teachers’ strike scheduled to start tomorrow.
But whether Kavila and his lieutenants were willing to compromise – and in fact whether they had such a mandate from their members – would only be known at the end of last night’s deliberations.
“We are thankful for the invite to State House. We have been waiting for this moment. We need to see a way out of this situation,” Kavila said, before the army of journalists present were ordered out of the room. With the strike rules already crafted and voting completed in favour of industrial action, it would seemingly require more effort from government to halt the strike at the eleventh hour.
President Geingob was clear as daylight on the challenges his government is facing, which hampers its ability to meet the demands by Nantu and its members.
“We know the reality on the ground,” he said.
“We are talking about drought, we are talking about an energy crisis, reduced SACU income, and foreign exchange reserves that are low, especially that we have to pay foreign contractors in foreign currency.”
“We are doing the overall review and to cut costs across the board,” the President said.
Geingob appeared relieved at the understanding shown by Napwu, saying their attitude aligns with his prosperity plan, Harambee.
“We appreciate Napwu for understanding and accepting the five percent. It’s not the end of it. We have years to come. As we say in Harambee, we need to suffer together, plan together and also prosper together because the idea of Harambee is prosperity.”
“We cannot do it in chaos, in chaotic situations. I therefore appreciate that Napwu have come at my invitation to exchange views and I am particularly thankful that they understand the situation and the dilemma that government is in.”
Responding to Geingob’s appraisals, Nevonga said: “As union leaders we are charged with the responsibility of analysing the situation very carefully in terms of economic indicators at both micro and macro levels. Our members have accepted it, although this is not what they originally wanted.”