TUN condems GRN latest move in legal battle with teachers

20 Nov 2013 15:20pm
WINDHOEK, 20 NOV (NAMPA) - The leadership of the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) has condemned the government's latest move in the case of deduction of monies from teachers who took part in an illegal strike during October and November 2012.
A document shown to journalists at a media conference here on Wednesday indicates that lawyers representing the Namibian Government and the Ministry of Education (MoE) in this case have over the past few weeks made further submissions to the Registrar of the Windhoek High Court and Arbitrator at the Office of Labour Commissioner.
TUN said this was done without following the proper procedures as stipulated in the country's Labour Act.
According to the document, government lawyers made further submissions to the Registrar of the High Court and Arbitrator at the Office of the Labour on 14 November this year while the case is awaiting a final ruling on 29 November this year as well as the final outcome of the arbitration hearing in the next few days.
This latest move by the Government lawyers prompted the leadership of the TUN to call an urgent media conference on Wednesday where TUN President Mahongora Kavihuha condemned the government's efforts.
Kavihuha expressed his dismay and dissatisfaction that the lawyers representing the Namibian Government and MoE in this long-standing legal battle made further submissions to the High Court without the consent of the trade union's lawyers or without obtaining leave to do so from the court.
“A final judgement in this matter is being expected …. and [it will] be made public on 29 November 2013. The arbitration proceedings at the Labour Commissioner's Office have also been concluded and we (two parties involved in the matter) are only awaiting the arbitrator's award. It is, therefore, with utter shock and dismay that TUN leadership on Monday (18 November 2013) learned that lawyers representing the Government and the Education Ministry in this case made further submissions without the consent of our lawyers and or leave from court,” explained Kavihuha.
He told the media conference: “The practice, as per provisions of the Labour Act, is that if there is need to make any further submissions to the case, both parties should approach the court for permission to file additional submissions or either party brings an application on notice to the other party.”
He said his union is, therefore, disappointed in “this rather underhanded way in which the Namibian Government, through its lawyers, chose to make further submissions to court and/or to the Labour Commissioner's Office is a desperate attempt to influence the outcome of the case in its favour.”
Kavihuha continued: “Suffice to say, the initial submissions by the government lawyers to the Labour Commissioner's Office were submitted way out (sic) of time and no attempt was made to obtain consent from our lawyers. TUN condemns in the strongest way possible, the government's conduct and calls upon the government to litigate in a fair and open manner. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.”
The MoE has, during the course of this year, been sending final written warnings to teachers, as well as notices with instructions to all regional education offices to deduct monies from teachers who took part in an illegal strike last year.
This move by the Education Ministry prompted the leadership of the Teachers’ Union of Namibia (TUN) in September this year to approach the High Court with an urgent application, asking the court for an order to stop that Ministry from issuing final written warnings and deducting monies from teachers' salaries.
In a ruling on the urgent application handed down on 02 October this year, High Court Judge Maphios Cheda gave an interim order interdicting the Ministry of Education and the Public Service Commission (PSC) - as respondents - from issuing the final written warnings and deducting monies from the affected teachers.
“The two respondents - Education Ministry and PSC- are hereby both ordered to stop making and/or continue to make any deductions of monies from the teachers' remuneration in lieu of leave without pay as a result of these teachers' alleged participation in a strike during October and November 2012, pending the resolution and outcome of the ongoing hearing of the arbitration case that is currently before the Office of the Labour Commissioner (case number CRWK-478-13),” the judge said at the time.
According to the court order, the two respondents were also ordered to pay back any money which was already deducted from the teachers' salaries after the referral of the dispute to the Office of Labour Commissioner Bro-Mathew Shinguandja.
It was further ordered that the two respondents should immediately withdraw all final warnings they issued against the teachers after the referral of the dispute to the Office of the Labour Commissioner.
In addition, the two respondents were ordered to jointly and severally foot the legal bills of TUN's successful urgent application.
Prominent Windhoek-based lawyer, Advocate Steve Rukoro appeared for the applicants, the TUN.
Tinashe Chibwana represented the Education Ministry and the PSC, acting on the instruction of the Office of the Government Attorneys.
Hundreds of school teachers who are based in the Khomas Region and their colleagues in other regions went on a 'wildcat strike' in October and November last year, expressing their unhappiness about the progress of salary negotiations between the government, Nantu [the Namibian National Teachers’ Union] and the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (Napwu).
The negotiations, which began in October 2012, ended in November of that same year when the parties involved in the negotiations agreed upon an eight per cent salary increment for civil servants, including teachers.
Shortly after reaching this salary increase agreement, the MoE then started issuing written letters for the deduction of monies from teachers who took part in the illegal strike.
Namibia has over 23 000 teachers.
(NAMPA)
SKE/JK