Selco Strike Looms Over Pay Dispute

KEETMANSHOOP could be plunged into darkness if workers of Southern Electricity Company Ltd (SELCo), a company responsible for managing and distributing electricity supply at the town, carry out their intention to down tools over a pay dispute.

In a statement issued yesterday, the company’s media liaison officer, Frieda du Plessis, forewarned the town’s electricity users of the looming strike and requested them to remain patient.

“SELCo expects strike action from its employees to commence within the next week or two and as such, request electricity users to be patient and understanding while the company addresses the issue. SELCo will continue to deliver services to the best of its ability and will notify consumers of any developments,” said Du Plessis.

According to Du Plessis, wage negotiations between management and the workers reached a deadlock last Thursday after the workers rejected a 7,5% annual salary increment offer.

“SELCo is of the opinion that the 7,5% salary increase offer was very fair and reasonable under the circumstances when compared to the 3,25% tariff increase SELCo imposed as the company endeavours to keep tariffs as low as possible for the communities of Keetmanshoop, Karasburg, and Aranos.

The MUN SELCo branch secretary, Goberty Kazombiazo, yesterday declined to comment on the workers’ demands.

However, an employee who is privy to the wage negotiations told The Namibian that the workers are demanding a 14% wage increase across the board.

The employee, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, indicated that the workers are demanding a double digit wage increase because they felt they are being underpaid.

On top of that, workers also do not receive any fringe benefits such transport, housing, and standby allowances, the employee added.

“The lowest paid worker receives N$3 000. Only two of the 23 company workers receive more than N$10 000,” the employee fumed.

According to the employee, workers have already been issued with the unresolved dispute certificate and are working on the modalities before the industrial action begins.

“We are just working on the striking. Workers will soon down tools,” the employee remarked. SELCo still manages and distributes electricity in Keetmanshoop despite last month’s High Court ruling which found that the 15-year electricity management contract concluded between Keetmanshoop Municipality and SELCo on 23 August 2001 is in breach of the joint business venture regulations.

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