Ohangwena counsellors consider striking

23 Oct 2013 19:10pm
EENHANA, 23 OCT (NAMPA) – The community counsellors who staged a peaceful demonstration at Eenhana in the Ohangwena Region demanding improved conditions of service on Monday, are considering industrial action.
The spokesperson of the counsellors, David Nambinga, told Nampa here on Wednesday they have resolved to strike if the local health authority fails to provide them with satisfactory answers to their demand within seven days starting this past Monday.
The counsellors went back to their duty stations after staging the demonstration, which lasted some four hours, on Monday.
They are entrusted with administering health-related counselling, especially on HIV/AIDS treatment, at health facilities across the Ohangwena Region.
The counsellors’ demonstration was mainly about demanding better salaries, improved working conditions and wanting to be put on the government payroll.
They told this news agency during their demonstration that currently their salaries are funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and they have not received a salary increment over the past three years.
“The Ministry promised to integrate us into its payroll system by September this year, but we were surprised when they came up with another extension of our contracts of service to 2014,” the demonstrating counsellors explained.
Nambinga on Wednesday said the counsellors defied the ministry’s demand for them to sign such contracts as they are tired of being “contract workers” for years.
According to Nambinga, the ministry continues to recruit community counsellors in the country on a one-year contract basis, which has been extended every year since 2005.
Acting Director of Health and Social Services for the Ohangwena Region, John Hango, refused to accept a petition from the demonstrating community counsellors at Eenhana on Monday, saying their protest was illegal.
“What you are doing is illegal, and I will not be pulled onto the wrong side of the law by accepting your petition,” he said when the demonstrators attempted to hand their petition to him.
He said the counsellors violated procedure by not notifying his office about their demonstration seven days in advance as is required.
Hango noted that demonstrators only served him with a notification letter last Friday.
The counselors also handed in a copy of their petition at the office of Ohangwena regional governor Usko Nghaamwa in his absence on Monday morning before Hango’s refusal.
Director of Planning and Development Services for the Ohangwena Regional Council, Phillip Shilongo, received the petition on behalf of Nghaamwa and promised to forward it to the relevant authorities without delay.