Govt to Refund Teachers for Strike Deductions

The Teachers’ Union of Namibia (TUN) has announced that a settlement between the union and the government has been reached to pay back money deducted from their salaries because of their participation in the 2012 illegal national strike that halted normal teaching and learning at many public schools countrywide.

It could not be confirmed how much government will pay in total after deducting money from approximately 400 teachers.

The settlement was reached last week Wednesday between TUN and the Ministry of Education follows a protracted legal battle between the two parties regarding salary deductions and written warning served to teachers who participated in an illegal national strike that took place in 2012.

The Minister of Education, Dr David Namwandi, yesterday confirmed that a government attorney, on behalf of the ministry, has reached such an agreement with TUN.

“I asked the government attorney who was handling the case and he told me that the negotiations between government and TUN have been concluded and the parties have reached an agreement,” he said.

The president of the TUN, Mahongora Kavihuha, yesterday told the media that the union incurred costly legal battles throughout the teachers’ strike.

“I have to confirm it was costly. The battle was long and bitter. We spent more than N$400 000 since the strike started. Those actions have paid off. Now teachers are free from deductions and warnings. The deducted monies should be paid back to them within the next three months,” he said.

He therefore congratulated TUN members who stood firm and supported the union through the long and costly legal battle.

He, however, said although the settlement was reached out of court, TUN took the agreement to the Labour Commissioner to make it a legally binding document.

According to him, the settlement entails that TUN shall withdraw the dispute referred to the Labour Commissioner’s Office and that the government shall also withdraw all final written warnings issued to TUN members with immediate effect.

Furthermore, he said part of the settlement is that TUN shall furnish the respondents with all of its members who did not receive a notice in terms of Section 11 of the State Finance Act, but from whose remuneration deductions were made, within 30 days from date thereof.

“The government saw that they did not have a case. They did not follow Section 11 of the State Finance Act and Section 12 of the Labour Act. The government called the strike illegal but we called it necessary. Who has monopoly over English?,” he remarked. He said part of the agreement is that government shall provide proof to TUN of service of such notices to all TUN members who did not receive the notice within 30 days after receiving the list from the applicant

Kavihuha also said the parties agreed to set one day aside for the verification of such notices, on a date which shall be mutually agreed upon between the parties.

He added that all the deductions made from the remuneration of those members who did not receive the notice shall be refunded within three months from the date of such verification.

He also took an opportunity to apologise to those who may be offended by “TUN’s bad remarks” during the national strike.

“It should be understood that the strike was rocky. We insulted each other during the strike. I take this opportunity to apologise to anyone against whom the union used bad language. It was not our wish although the situation demanded it. We are not apologetic about the strike but to the events,” he apologised.

Additionally, he urged all those members whose salaries’ deductions were made but who did not receive the mandatory statutory notice to contact TUN office as a matter of urgency and to provide their details so they can be forwarded to the ministry of education.

The settlement follows a dispute referred to the Office of the Labour Commissioner last year, whereby TUN claimed that the deduction of money for unpaid leave from teachers who had stayed away from work during the strike does not comply with the Labour Act and is “arbitrary and without any legal basis”.

TUN also claimed that final written warnings issued to teachers who took part in the strike are “substantively and procedurally unfair”, since these had been issued without any attempt to comply with the Public Service Act and the Labour Act.

The TUN president at the time argued in an affidavit filed with the court that the final written warnings issued to some teachers do not comply with the Public Service Act, which specifically requires that a final written warning must be preceded by a disciplinary hearing chaired by an impartial person.

Kavihuha also stated that while the Labour Act gives an employer the right to withhold the salaries of employees who did not work during a strike, the law does not permit an employer to start to make deductions for unpaid leave from an employee’s salary any way it wants.

Source : New Era