Namibia: NBC Workers Threaten Strike


Hundreds of disgruntled Namibian Broadcasting Corporation workers have threatened to take industrial action over wages during the Swapo Party Congress, one of the employees said. The employees last week held a meeting at which 90 percent were in support of the planned industrial action, said an employee who attended the meeting.

The planned strike comes after the NBC Director-General, Bob Kandetu, promised the workers a six percent increase on top of the nine percent that was supposed to be effected end of last month. According to reliable sources, an agreement was reached early this year between Kandetu and the Namibia Public Workers Union to increase wages. During the meeting, it was agreed employees would get six percent across the board but Kandetu later back-tracked on the agreement citing lack of funds.

NBC shop-steward chairperson, Kennedy Onesmus, confirmed last week's decision to go on strike. He would, however, not say when the strike would take place. Onesmus said the union and management had negotiated for a six percent increase to come from the 2007/2008 budget, but this did not materialise.

"We have a problem of implementing the increment which was agreed on in principle. Management kept postponing and they kept coming up with conflicting stories. The employees are unhappy and see industrial action as the best way to address the issue. Employees would also want to get answers from the management," he said. "They are the ones that came up with the counter offer and all of a sudden, they turn around and say there is no money. There is also inconsistency in the way people are getting paid, management thinks we are not aware, but we are and we have made enquiries," he said.

Onesmus maintained that the agreement was supposed to come into effect on July 1. Because of these 'excuses', some employees became so frustrated they resigned.

One employee said the corporation was going through financial problems, yet it hired a South African company to provide satellite equipment for the company's live broadcast during the Heroes Day commemorations at Eenhana.

The NBC apparently paid N$300 000 to the South African Dimension TV Facility hired for the live broadcast. NBC employees also complain that it paid N$11,584 in subsistence and travel allowances to its board chairperson, Ponhele ya Frans, to attend commemorations at Eenhana on August 26.

Ironically, it only gave daily allowances of N$50 to its crew for Outside Broadcasting (OB) forcing some of them to squat with relatives and some booked into cheap lodges where they shared rooms. Initially the OB crew was booked in at a hotel at Ondangwa but the booking was cancelled at the last minute, it is alleged.

According to the NBC employees, there are reports of TV licences that were issued but whose receipts remain uncounted for. TV licences from number T4 52001 - T4 52100 and T4 91801 - T4 91900 inclusive paid in Oshakati remain unacounted for resulting in the company losing almost N$10 000 in licence fees, they say. However, this is not the first time licences are unaccounted for and the employee says the shortfall can be between N$100 000 to N$200 000 for NBC.

NBC Acting Director-General Umbi Karuaihe-Upi confirmed most of the allegations raised against the company. "Yes, we did spend N$ 347,411, 91 during the Heroes Day commemorations, of which N$ 247,000 was used to pay the hired South African company which provided us with the satellite, while the remaining N$100 000 included the workers S&T, accommodation and the board chairman since he is also on an AA rate of the company. He was invited to attend the commemoration," said Karuaihe - Upi. "It is also true that the DG had taken a decision for the employees who were booked in at Cresta Lodge to cancel their bookings and go for cheaper lodges. This was due to the company's financial constraints," she said.

She could, however, not confirm the TV licence money that is unaccounted for and promised to respond as soon as she gets the right information.

(New Era (Windhoek), 30 October 2007)