WINDHOEK: The six-day country-wide strike at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) could have been avoided if the Ministry of Information had made a submission to Cabinet to release funds for salary increases three weeks ago.
This was stated by Deputy General-Secretary of the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (Napwu), Gabes Andumba during a media conference at the NBC television centre in the northern industrial area here on Wednesday.
“It is in fact needless to say that none of the previous promises were fulfilled and we were left with no option but to go on strike,” said Andumba.
Cabinet finally approved a salary increase of 4.4 per cent for employees of the national broadcaster on Tuesday.
NBC radio and television services went quiet at midnight last Wednesday, and since then the radio service had just played non-stop music while on television, just a static logo was displayed.
The services were restored at midday today, during the media conference.
The strike resulted in an emergency meeting on Monday after NBC management and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology could not reach an agreement on the workers’ demands.
The NBC employees had initially a 13 per cent increase, but this later changed to demands for an increase of 4.4 per cent for lower level workers and a one per cent increase for those in higher grades.
Cabinet on Tuesday released N.dollars 8.9 million which will go towards salary adjustments.
Andumba on Wednesday explained that the union and NBC management had already agreed on salary increase in May this year.
“… Napwu cannot and will not be blamed for adhering to the labour law in an attempt to resolve the dispute and prevent a strike. Instead of assisting our efforts in searching for a solution, we were constantly given empty promises and half-truths,” he said.
The Napwu Deputy General-Secretary added that the union and NBC management agreed on all negotiations on 19 May 2012, but they (union) had to declare a dispute when it became evident that the other party did not intend to implement the terms agree upon.
He said they followed all procedures provided for in the Labour Act and took industrial action only after these had been exhausted some three months later.
When Napwu and the broadcaster’s management concluded the negotiations, the union was informed that the issue was forwarded to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, and received attention at the highest level.
Andumba also expressed his dissatisfaction with recent local media reports that indicated that some members of society felt that the NBC services should stay off as it is “only a burden for the taxpayer”.
He said the statements can be compared to someone visiting the offices of an opposition party when the ruling party’s offices are flooded.
Meanwhile, at the same occasion, NBC Director-General (DG) Albertus Aochamub apologized for the inconvenience experienced by members of the public during the strike.
“We know that NBC services are essential to the lives of all Namibians, rich and poor; urban and rural. Advertisers are important partners in our business and we will do all we can to restore confidence going forward and ensure compensation where losses might have been incurred,” he explained.
Aochamub also commended the staff for behaving responsibly during the strike as no vandalism or anti-social behaviour was reported.