Namibia: NBC Staffers Protest Working Conditions

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Employees of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) on Friday made public their frustrations with their employer, staging a peaceful demonstration outside the broadcaster's administration block in Windhoek during their lunch hour. Staff at the Oshakati satellite office also had a similar protest at the northern office.

Dissatisfaction with top management, unfavourable working conditions and unkept promises of salary increases all formed the basis for an exercise, which union shop stewards say will be repeated every week until their grievances are addressed. Among the workers' demands are that action be taken against managers responsible for some of the deals that have contributed to the NBC's financial crisis.

"Take to task those responsible for such criminal contracts such as the one with United Africa that is crippling our already dysfunctional [car] fleet," the petition handed over to Director General Bob Kandetu reads.

The United Africa car lease deal signed by former DG Gerry Munyama without following proper procedure will cost the corporation about N$7 million to get out of, an independent audit report showed last year.

The deal, under which the NBC is leasing 27 vehicles from the company run by Hadis Tilahun, is apparently costing the corporation millions a year. Ironically, Munyama was offered and took up a senior management position at United Africa Group following his resignation from the NBC.

The demonstrating employees further demand that the top management of the corporation be removed "and replaced with qualified and competent and honest leaders." Demonstrators also voiced their dissatisfaction with Government's decision to decrease its financial support to the NBC while reportedly turning down an amount requested for wage increases. "Why has Government abandoned us, we are best capable of running the corporation in a profitable way compared to Air Namibia.

All we need is for a change of management and a bailout to redress previous wrongs," the petition further reads.

Speaking to The Namibian before the march, Kennedy Onesmus, the chairperson of the shop stewards' council, said the NBC was losing an average of four experienced staff members every month because of working conditions at the broadcaster. This, he said, has led to a situation where those who remain have to do double or triple their normal amount of work, while equipment, tools and vehicles keep on deteriorating without receiving attention. "We understand when the DG says we need to tone down on expenses, but not at the expense of people," he said.

Kandetu received the petition, which was signed by "all NBC employees", and promised to respond to it within two weeks. Workers have pledged to repeat Friday's action every week until the issue is addressed, and have stated that further action will be taken if their grievances are not addressed within the next two weeks.

The Oshakati staff handed their petition to the head of the Oshiwambo Radio Service, Helen Shiimbi. Like their colleagues in Windhoek, they criticised NBC management for a lack of leadership skills and strategic vision.

The Namibian Windhoek, April 16, 2007