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Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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Exams continue as University of Namibia staff strike

Sakeus Iikela

The University of Namibia (Unam) staff strike currently underway has not affected the examinations, although the workers’ union says nobody would report to work until a solution has been found.

Unam employees, including lecturers and supervisors, are demanding a 6% salary increase backdated to January 2018.

The workers, who are represented by the Namibia Public Workers Union, could, however, not agree with the management over their demands, and they went on strike.

Unam branch union representative Barbara van der Westhuizen yesterday said the strike would continue if management failed to come up with a solution, or until such time that “a settlement is reached”.

“Staff members are frustrated, as you can see. They are very vocal and energetic, and we want our increase. Life has become very expensive for us, inflation is going up, and everything is increasing, and we feel that 6% is not an unreasonable demand,” she stressed.

Van der Westhuizen also said Unam was contravening the strike rules which they set up by using students to invigilate.

She added that the management had denied them access to the campus to check whether they were using scab workers or not.

“We have heard that other people have been brought in to do our work. That is absolutely against the labour law that requires that no scab labour must be used when employees are on strike. We have also heard reports that management has been sent to various campuses to oversee the invigilation of examinations,” she said.

According to her, the university used some postgraduate students at the Henties Bay campus to invigilate the examinations, and that such students were “given access to the safe where the exam papers are,” an act she says was against the university’s examination rules.

Furthermore, there was a possibility that the examinations could be nullified if the claims of students being used to invigilate turned out to be true, she noted.

Unam’s marketing director, Edwin Tjiramba, said the strike did not interrupt the examination processes at all campuses.

He also refuted claims that the university had brought in scab workers to invigilate during the strike period.

Management denied the protestors access to the university premises to protect the rights of those who reported for work and were helping with the examinations. Tjiramba explained.

“We are also aware that within our rules, we have to protect those employees who fall inside the bargaining unit, but decided to come to work. We think that allowing protestors to visit the premises is tantamount to a fishing expedition, where you are not telling us that you think so and so is violating the rules, or is doing somebody’s work,” he added.

The university, he said, will also investigate the claims that students were used to invigilate and allowed access into examination paper lockers at some campuses, and that “the university will deal with it accordingly”.

Tjiramba, however, denied the claims of scab workers, saying that people who were invigilating were “staff who fall within the bargaining unit, but chose to come to work”.

The Namibian

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