Airnam Braces for Strike

AIR Namibia cabin crew members could go on strike today, following the airline’s refusal to agree on a salary increase, the Namibia Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) has announced.

If the 47 cabin crew members go on strike, several domestic, regional and international flights could be grounded.

The strike action has been triggered by the airline’s apparent failure to reach an agreement over salaries, an issue the union says has been dragging on for four consecutive years.

A meeting held this week between Air Namibia management and the union to find an amicable solution reached a dead end, although deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Alpheus Muheua mediated.

“It was apparent during this meeting that the company’s management still refuses to cooperate and we are left with no choice but to go ahead with our planned strike,” NCCU president Reginald Kock told The Namibian yesterday.

The intended strike would hit the airline hard as it is recovering from recent financial troubles that necessitated a billion dollar government bailout with taxpayers’ money.

NCCU members had voted, on 6 May, whether to go on strike or not.

“Over 98% of our members voted in favour of industrial action,” Kock said, adding that once the strike is set in motion, they would not stop until their demands are met.

“South African Airlines pays R12 000 at entry level for cabin crew members. If we are competing with them on a market level, why can our salaries not also at the same level? We should be graded to the level of safety officers. Our families are not financially secure,” argued NCCU vice-president Renier Bougaard during a press conference this week.

Bougaard said that most cabin crew members cannot afford buying their own houses and live in rented apartments.

Air Namibia’s spokesperson Oneka Sitali in a press statement on Wednesday said it was regrettable that the union, despite all attempts by management to resolve the matter amicably, is persisting to proceed with the strike, which will have dire consequences to the nation, the airline and its employees.

“The company moved from the Peromnes Job Grading system to the Patterson Job Grading System in 2009 and 2010 and an elaborate process of consultations and engagements was followed to regrade all positions in the company,” she said.

Sitali added that the NCCU was unhappy about the change from Peromnes and the outcome of the regrading exercise.

“They are particularly unhappy that their positions were graded in the B-band and not the C-band,” she said.

She said Air Namibia has engaged independent human resources consultants to review the grading exercise and this work is expected to be completed by 20 June 2014 and the airline has undertaken to comply with whatever the outcome.

“Following intervention by the Ministry of Labour, the union has been requested to delay the planned industrial action and await the outcome of this exercise but regrettably the union has confirmed its intention to continue with the strike,” she said.

She said the company deems the strike as illegal on the basis that the matter contested is a “dispute of rights” and not a “dispute of interest”, and the union did not follow the due process prescribed by the labour laws of the country.

“In the meantime, the airline wishes to reaffirm that it will do everything in its power and within its financial constraints to avert the possible strike action by NCCU,” she said.

Sitali said that a number of flights will still be operated and called upon passengers and related stakeholders to standby for further alerts and notices on which flights will be affected.

Source : The Namibian