By: Selma Taapopi
Two bargaining bodies representing the public servants have begun drafting strike rules following a nationwide voting process in which employees voted in favour of the protest. Over 42 000 public servants voted in favour of the strike,representing 96.4% votes, while 1 832 employees voted against the strike, which accounts for only 2.9%. Following a deadlock in salary increment negotiations between unions negotiating on behalf of civil servants and the government, employees went to the polls last week Thursday and Friday. Announcing the results on Tuesday, Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) secretary-general Petrus Nevonga stated that a total 81 853 civil servants were eligible to vote, with 43 794 employees taking part in the ballot. This represented 53.5 % of voters, while 346 ballots were spoiled, accounting for 0.8 % of voters. As a result of the spoiled ballots only 43 448 voters were counted. According to Nevonga, the two unions, Napwu and the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) have begun drafting strike rules, noting that strike rules should be agreed upon between the bargaining unions and the government, after which the government will be given a 48 hours notice on the commencement of the strike. "The law further provides that in case the two parties find it difficult to agree to the rules, it has empowered the conciliator to draft rules that would be agreed by both parties", stated Nevonga. Although civil servants have voted in favour of the strike, Nevonga stated the two parties are still permitted within the 48 hours notice to find a solution to the dispute and emphasised that inflation and the cost of living has gone up since the last civil servant's increment in 2017. "After you draft the rules, agree and sign, the union now will give the employer 48 hours notice of the commencement of a strike, because the unions, the workers, civil servants have voted for a strike," he said. Despite the fact that the workers have voted, the rules will be drafted and a 48 hours notice will be given, this does not prevent the parties to meet and try to find a solution to the dispute, however if the 48 hours notice lapses and the solution is not found between the parties, a strike will commence. Nevonga states that their conduct as trade unions and processes leading up to the ballot were procedurally correct and done in line with the labour act 11 of 2007. The government has approximately 108 875 employees. Public servants are demanding a 9% increase on their basic salary and housing benefit, as well as a 10% increment on their transport benefit. However, the government is offering a 7% increase on homeowners' schemes for staff members, an increase on the housing benefit for non-management workers to14.5%, an increased housing benefit for management to 12% , and a transport benefit increase for non-managers to 14%. This would cost the government N$334.9 million.