Cabin Crew Strike Could Ground Air Namibia

The Namibia Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) yesterday confirmed that its 140 cabin crew members would embark on industrial action this morning at 01h00 over discontent with salary regrading.

The strike, which has been a looming threat for the national airline since a Certificate of Unresolved Dispute was issued by the Office of the Labour Commissioner in 2012, could potentially bring Air Namibia’s operations to a standstill.

According to the union’s president, Reginald Kock, the main bone of contention is the grading of cabin crew’s salaries, which were regraded when Air Namibia moved from the Peromnes job grading system to the Patterson system in 200910.

Kock said the regarded salaries were “way below” cabin crew salaries in the SADC region.

“Air Namibia did not compare our cabin crew salaries with those of similar positions in the industry. Instead, they compared them with the salaries of clerks,” said Kock.

The NCCU president emphasized that cabin crew have a tremendous “safety aspect” to their jobs and hence the airline should “compare apples with apples”. Air Namibia’s Corporate Communications Officer, Oneka Sitali, said in a statement: “It is regrettable that the union, despite all attempts by management to resolve this matter amicably, is persisting to proceed with the strike which will have dire consequences for the nation, the airline and its employees.” She added that after the airline moved to the new grading system an elaborate process of consultations and engagements was followed to regrade all positions in the company. “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,” said Sitali. However, Kock was adamant that the union was sidelined during the consultation process.

“We have communicated reasonable salary figures to management but feel we were ignored,” said Kock. The union thus opted for industrial action, with 98 percent of those represented voting in favour of a strike. Regarding cabin crew still out on international flights, Kock said the union was waiting for them to return home to join the industrial action. Sitali explained Air Namibia had engaged independent human resources consultants to review the grading exercise, and this was expected to be completed by June 20, 2014. She added that the airline has further undertaken to comply with whatever the outcome of the review. “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. The company deems this to be an illegal strike 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,” said Sitali. She said a number of flights will still be operated, and called upon passengers and related stakeholders to stand by for further alerts and notices on which flights would be affected. By Edgar Brandt

Source : New Era