Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) says Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) does not have the workers’ best interest at heart, as they are not putting their plight first.
According to Napwu’s general secretary Petrus Nevonga, NBC cannot cite budgetary constraints or scarce funds as reasons to not pay their employees their wage increment when management paid themselves bonuses amounting to N$5.4 million, at the end of last year.
In his replying affidavit filed yesterday, Nevonga questioned why NBC would engage in salary negotiations and make offers knowing full well they have no funds. He further questioned why NBC failed to consult government prior to entering into negotiations on the availability of funds.
“Clearly, the first respondent (NBC) was making offers to the applicant (Napwu) without having any basis for making such offers and having no basis to negotiate,” said Nevonga.
NBC’s offer to pay the employees a once-off payment of N$7.6 million, according to Nevonga, was made in bad faith as it was made on the basis that money was available but clearly, it was not.
He rubbished claims made by NBC’s director general Stanley Similo that striking employees are violating the strike rules, intimidating non-striking employees, blocking the entrance to NBC premises, damaging the image of the company by creating social media accounts under ‘NBC Workers – Voice of the Nation’ and Instagram handle #nbcworkers and deliberately misinforming the public of the status quo.
The broadcasting workers have now been on strike for nearly four weeks after they could not reach a consensus with their employer regarding an 8% salary increase and improved working conditions.
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The workers are engaged in a legal battle with their employer and have approached the Labour Court for an order declaring that the conduct of NBC and the government during the wage negotiations in 2020 and 2021 was unlawful, as it undermined orderly collective bargaining, and violated the provisions of Section 34 of the Labour Act.
Nevonga argues the NBC breached the collective agreement and undermined orderly collective bargaining, adding the broadcaster and government engaged the union knowing that there was no possibility of reaching an agreement.
The hearing scheduled before judge Collins Parker has since been postponed to Wednesday next week.
NBC, in court papers, that have since been filed, have maintained that the company does not have money to meet its obligations and the industrial action by the employees is “unreasonable”.
According to Similo, the employees, alongside their representing union, Napwu, knew of NBC’s budgetary constraints but elected to embark on a strike. He said NBC’s budget was cut by 62%, receiving only N$127.5 million for the 2021/2022 financial year which is a far cry from N$334.1 million received the previous year.
“It was communicated to the applicant (Napwu) that the first respondent did not have additional funds to cater for salary increments. The first respondent (NBC) was, however, in the position to pay all employees in the bargaining unit a once off payment of N$7.6 million, subject to the availability of funds,” explained Similo. He added that NBC always acted in good faith during the salary negotiations.
Napwu is represented by Unomwinjo Katjipuka-Sibolile, with Loini Shikale and Nelson Mutorwa representing NBC and government.