The Namibian Broadcasting Cooperation employees are in a state of panic following the announcement of the retrenchment of 156 workers, starting on Wednesday.
This is after, NBC’s board chairperson Sven Thieme announced that the organisation was under financial stress and needed to take action in cutting costs to avoid possible liquidation.
Thieme said it was not only the issue of job loses but the coverage of the national elections in November would also be affected if the government does not provide at least N$385 million.
The planned job cuts are to reduce staff numbers from 569 to 413 employees.
In a statement, NBC said they had cancelled directors’ fees, news airing was reduced to once per day, while staff travel would be minimised together with productions.
“The current situation also risks limitations in the coverage of the upcoming presidential and National Assembly elections, unless this production is fully financially supported.”
But the NBC shop union Kephas Hembapu said all employees were assured that the union would do its best to ensure that there will be no job losses.
He said they met with NBC board last week prior the announcement and “their stance remains that the NBC comes up with whatever measures to cut costs as long as there would be no lay-offs.”
“People are obviously panicking, and it is normal to do so when you hear that 150 people will lose their jobs while you work for that company,” said Hembapu.
He added that no notification of employment termination has been issued yet.
While Information and Communication Technology minister Stanley Simataa said the government will not allow people to lose their jobs as it will add on the high level of unemployment the country is already faced with.
“We need to sit down and find a long-term solution because we cannot continue with this situation every financial year.”
NBC should look at its operations, and find ways to ensure that they have a staff complement which is in line with its resources, as retrenchment must be the last option,” said Simataa.
“The reduction in their funding over the years has definitely made an impact, and we need to see how we as a government can provide them with the needed resources.”
Some severe measures already implemented by the NBC include broadcasting on NBC1 from 24 hours to 07h00-21h00 programming, while the English news bulletin will only run once per day at 20h00.
“This is a blow to the democratic process, and it affects the credibility of our electoral process. Opposition parties do not get as much coverage already, as it is, and one wonders what coverage they would get if this is the case,” he added.