Union drags Windhoek City to court over wages

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

AGGRIEVED temporary employees of the City of Windhoek have dragged their employer to the Labour Court in a bid to acquire permanent employment status and to enter into salary negotiations for the current and next financial year.

The City of Windhoek and the workers’ representatives, the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (Napwu), held conciliation talks at the Office of the Labour Commission on Tuesday, following the City’s earlier refusal to meet with union reps.

According to Sam Iilonga of Napwu who led the negotiations, there was a hearing on Tuesday and the City of Windhoek was willing to come to the table on 10-11 September for negotiations. “The union negotiation relies on the workers’ mandate. Why we took the City to court is that they refused to come to the table.

“Our recognition agreement says that each year we should meet as parties to negotiate, but the City of Windhoek had a lot of postponements, which we been writing to City of Windhoek about but they have been just ignoring us, telling us they did not yet get mandates from the council, which is not an issue to us.

“We have the law in the country and we have the recognition agreement. The law says if somebody is refusing to honour [the recognition agreement] we should refer the dispute to the Labour Commission, according to RC21, which says [in case of] refusal to bargain, the Labour Court should call both of you, so that you will be heard.”

Iilonga said the union would not compromise because they have a mandate from the workers and the union was ready to go and negotiate on 10-11 September and the outcome will be communicated to the members. He said it is not the union’s problem if City does not have money to increase workers’ salaries.

“Negotiation is guided by the principle of give and take. What you demand is not what you get but there is a level where the members will say, ‘Okay, negotiate up to this level. If you reach there you can then agree,’ but the issue of no money – that is not our baby and we cannot answer on behalf of the City because they did not tell us about that.”

He said if they do not reach agreement, the union would declare a dispute, which may lead to strike action. “You see, when strikes are coming, they come because parties refuse to negotiate. We are guided by the law. There is nothing which is difficult on that matter. We are guided by the law and we will follow the law.

“As union officials we don’t compromise. Our role is to advise… and if City of Windhoek says they don’t have money, the law says you should open the books. When you open your books you must open your books so the unions sees that there is no money. As a union, if there is no money you don’t force your members to demand big [increases] to a point where you forget the future.”

Recently, the workers who do cleaning jobs in the streets of Windhoek staged a peaceful demonstration and handed a petition to the City of Windhoek demanding to be insourced and put on permanent employment contracts with benefits.