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The Tyranny of the Minority

The Tyranny of the Minority

The right to strike is a fundamental freedom enshrined in Namibia’s constitution, but a vote for a strike is non-binding, and does not necessarily mean that a strike should follow, but merely that the unions now have the authorization to initiate a strike should the situation call for it. This means that, despite the outcome of the vote, a window of opportunity now exists for government and the unions to clear the table, so to speak, and arrive at a settlement that prevents the catastrophic consequences for the Namibian economy. After all, no responsible worker can be forced to participate in a no-work no-pay strike in our current economic conditions – not when they have hungry mouths to feed at home.

Civil servants make up just over 21% of formally employed Namibians, and unlike the private sector, where employees experienced pay cuts and retrenchments as both the COVID-19 pandemic and foreign wars have put pressure on growth and fuelled inflation, these civil servants have had the advantage of job and pay security. As the country has struggled economically, the government wage bill remains at 42.5% of government expenditures as budgeted for the year.

It is this job and pay security that a strike now threatens. While a vocal minority of civil servants might be able to afford a strike, and has pressured the unions into a vote to allow one if need be, the reality is that a majority of civil servants simply just cannot afford to strike in current economic circumstances. It affects not only the pockets of those who strike, but disrupts the private sector as well – a private sector that, through its taxes, needs to provide for the government payroll.

Hard and difficult decisions must now be made by both government and the unions. They must remain cognizant of the economic circumstances, and negotiate for a solution that provides protection to its most vulnerable union members, and not one that is most profitable for its most vocal members. The survival of households should be at the forefront of their minds and should not be gambled with!

Unions should exist as a microcosm of Namibian society – united, realistic, and always in service to those most in need. It should not bow to the tyranny of the vocal minority, and cause exactly the suffering it says it wants to ease.

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