Air Namibia strike averted


A proposed strike by Air Namibia ground staff scheduled to run from midnight Wednesday was called off at the last minute, saving the flag carrier from grinding to a halt.

The Namibia Transport and Allied Worker’s Union (Natau) on Thursday said an agreement was reached with Air Namibia management before staff went on strike.

Natau general secretary John Kwedi told The Namibian that the planned strike by 272 ground staff was called off after wage negotiations were finalised in time. In addition, Air Namibia obtained a Labour Court interdict to stop the strike late on Wednesday night. At the same time, Natau’s strike and strike vote were declared null and void. The interdict is currently effective until June 3.

Under the terms of the deal with Air Namibia, staff in the A wage group will receive a 9% pay increase, those in the B group will receive a 7.5% increase and workers in the C group will earn 6.5% more. Furthermore, staff will also receive a N$300 (R300) transport allowance and a housing allowance of N$550 (R500) per month. The union said originally demanded pay increases of 12%, 9% and 8% for the three salary levels.

Air Namibia last week said the agreement will be backdated to June 1 last year. Kwedhi estimated this will cost the airline between N$7 million (R7 million) and N$11 million (R11 million). The union will now submit a new proposal for wages for the coming financial year.

Theo Namases, Air Namibia’s acting managing director, said that the proposed strike would have caused the airline to “end up with irrecoverable damages and other massive liabilities”.

The proposed strike comes after nine months of fruitless wage negotiations between Natau and Air Namibia. A Certificate of Unresolved Dispute was issued by the Office of the Labour Commissioner last Monday after a concillation hearing between management and workers failed. Natau also served Air Namibia with a strike notice, the Namibian Sun reports.

Namases said that even though pilots and cabin crew would not have gone on strike, a ground staff strike would have had “most serious financial and reputational repercussions” for Air Namibia.

Air Namibia is set to receive financial assistance worth N$406 million (R406 million) from the government during the 2011-12 financial year, The Namibian reports. Of this, about N$318.5 million (R318.5 million) is set aside for repaying loans, while the rest will be used to help cover its operational costs.