Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) was last week at loggerheads with government as they challenged public service regulations and pleaded with the Court of Appeal to help protect the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) from the president.
BOFEPUSU, an amalgamation of five public sector unions, is appealing a High Court decision to dismiss with costs a case registered by the federation for declaratory relief, following President Ian Khama and later the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM)’s pronouncement that there was going to be a salary increment of four percent ahead of last year’s general election. Advocate Aleck Freunt of BOFEPUSU pleaded with the courts to preserve the integrity and status of the PSBC so that it is able to effectively play its role.
He argued that the nature of the Bargaining Council, which encourages negotiating “in good faith,” does not permit either party to make any announcement that were not agreed upon. Freunt said Khama was also bound by the same principles that bound government in the negotiations. “The president cannot then say that the government might be done but I am not or that what I have done might be a bridge but I am not bound by it,” argued the lawyer, who believes that government’s action undermined the integrity of the Bargaining Council and were not in accordance with international best practices of negotiating in good faith. He added that since damage is already done unions are seeking for a remedy that would address the matter.
“This is a damage control exercise because the harm has already been done.” For his part Attorney General lawyer David Moloise said the unions caught them off guard as he had only prepared for a case based on the fact that it was dismissed as an urgent application and not based on its merits. “I am not ready to argue based on the merits of the case,” he said adding that to then address the matter based on its merits would not be fair on them.
“We would have to go back and prepare an affidavit that would then address the merits of the case.” He pointed out that they would be greatly blind sighted should they attempt to argue the matter.