Workers at NBC, which has around 600 employees for its radio and television services, went on nationwide strike on 22 April 2021 after two years of failed negotiations between management and their union, the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU).
Dozens of staff are on precarious short-term monthly contracts, some for up to 7 years, including around 60% of news reporters. Union representatives claim the News and Current Affairs departments are understaffed and journalists are having to take on an excessive workload covering for missing staff.
Salaries are low and benefits are poor. Despite receiving a subsidy from the government to help address low pay, management have instead paid out N$5,4 million in bonuses to 16 top managers and given director-general, Stanley Similo,a vehicle worth about N$2 millions, while telling workers that there was no money to meet their demands.
“The NBC management often hides behind claims of a lack of funds to resolve these issues, but continues to shower itself with millions of Namibia dollars in irregular bonuses”, said NAMPU General Secretary, Sakeus Iikela. He also denounced attempts to intimidate strikers.
NAMPU, has backed the workers calls for NBC management to:
• implement the 8% salary increment,
• addresses concerns regarding workers’ employment benefits,
• employ all workers now on one-month contracts on a full-time basis,
• adhere to the set strike rules.
NBC chairperson Lazarus Jacobs threatened striking workers with a “hostile working environment” and called for an end to the strike. The IFJ and NAMPU deplore this unacceptable attack against workers’ rights to belong to a trade union and to engage in a strike, both guaranteed by the Namibian Constitution.
Namibia hosted recently the events around World Press Freedom Day under the title “Information is a public good”, but, ironically, its national public media employees are working under poor conditions and it failed to broadcast the events due to the strike.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We stand in solidarity with NBC’s striking workers in their fight for decent salaries and working conditions. We will mobilise international support to help the workers secure justice and fair pay. Management must stop sending threatening messages to workers exercising their right to go on strike and negotiate with the union’s representatives for decent working conditions”.