Unam staff to petition Hangula today

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WINDHOEK, 26 January 2016 - Students of the University of Namibia (UNAM) staged a demonstration in front of UNAM's main campus, demanding for registration fees to be suspended. (Photo by: Esme Konstantinus) NAMPA

Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Windhoek-Disgruntled staff members of the University of Namibia (Unam) will today stage a peaceful protest march to the vice-chancellor Professor Lazarus Hangula’s office to hand over a petition detailing their grievances.

The petition, leaked to New Era, lists a raft of complaints, principal among them bread-and-butter issues pertaining to the delayed seven percent salary increase.

The petition calls for the immediate implementation of the seven percent salary increment across the board as approved by the University Council last December, but which because of budgetary cuts has been deferred.

Unam early this year froze the recruitment of new staff and salary adjustments for 2017 due to financial constraints.

In a memo dated January 25, staff were informed the university was still experiencing financial and cash-flow difficulties.

Yesterday the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) secretary general Basilius Haingura confirmed the protest to New Era, saying the march would start at around 07h15 at the main campus and at lunchtime at all other Unam campuses across the country.

“In December 2016, all staff members received a letter from the Vice Chancellor to inform them of salary increases of seven percent across the board, as approved by Unam council,” reads the petition.

The petition was signed by both the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) chairperson Barbara Westhuizen and Nantu interim chairperson, Muree Tjiueza.

“As a full commitment from employers, the letter stated that the increase would be implemented on 15 February 2017 and would be backdated to January 2017,” staff say in the petition to be handed to Hangula today.

It also notes that in January Unam consulted the unions and advised them they could not implement the increase in February this year due to prevailing cash-flow challenges.
“Unam assured the union that they were actively consulting with the Ministry of Higher Education, Vocational Training and Innovation to find a lasting solution to the cash-flow problem and implement the promised salary increase.”

The petition further says that to date the union has not been briefed on the outcome of discussions regarding the subject matter.

“It has been six months later and Unam has neither implemented the promised salary increase, nor has due date been communicated to the union for when this will happen,” it reads.

According to the petition, the delay has negatively affected the well-being of staff members because of economic hardships due to rising commodity prices as a result of high inflation.
“The low morale among staff members is very evident and it has been proven that this could further contribute to low productivity and poor work performance,” further reads the petition.
The union warns that prolonging the situation will only add more harm to the already painful injuries suffered under the current economic recession.

Staff further demand, among others, the immediate suspension of all capital projects and that the funds thereof be diverted to the salary budget.

The union also wants the university to divert the savings that have been realized from the cost-cutting measures approved by the council to the salary budget.

“Stop wasting money on expensive software that does not work and is eating the money meant for salary increases,” reads the petition.

Staff also demand that the university suspend phase 2 of the restructuring exercise for management positions and use the money for salary increases.

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