Government has stuck to its guns and will only offer a 4% salary increase to civil servants in the ongoing salary negotiations with public sector trade unions, BG has learnt. However, the unions have also extracted some concessions, which include overtime recession allowance and housing allowance.
The negotiations have been ongoing at the Bargaining Council since the second week of February with trade unions proposing a 16 percent increase, while government maintained that they could only afford a 4 percent increase. Botswana Guardian learnt this week that government will only agree to a 4 percent salary increase. However, the good news for public servants is that government will also introduce what they have termed an “overtime recession allowance.” Sources say this will be a 5 percent increase of the annual salaries for employees on the D4 scale and a 10 percent increase for those on C1 and other scales below.
Government is also ready to pay civil servants a housing allowance. “The negotiations have been progressing smoothly. We expect to complete them very soon and we are happy that the government is very cooperative this time around and both parties have submitted their proposals,” said a source with inside information of the negotiations. Another round of negotiations at which both parties expect to reach a final agreement will be held next week Wednesday. Should both parties settle for this agreement, a D4 scale employee would have his or her salary increased by close to P1000 (made up of 5% overtime recession plus 4% increment).
Those in A3 would get close to P200 increase. Therefore the increment would benefit civil servants across board. “The problem is that the negotiations are not benefiting those in the lower scale. The pyramid model could be useful because the lowly paid would get a larger share to bridge the gap with their counterparts in the higher scales,” said the source. General Secretary of the Public Service Bargaining Council, Patla Ulaula was cagey with information when reached for comment. “We are unable to share proposals with you as the negotiations process is strictly confidential, in terms of the rules of engagement for the current negotiations signed by both parties to the Council,” he said.
On the date of completion for the negotiations he said, “Unfortunately we cannot commit to specific timeframe because collective bargaining is complex by nature and therefore difficult for us to predict the completion date at this stage.” Neither would he say anything regarding progress made so far in the negotiations. The Chief Negotiator for the public sector union (BOFEPUSU), Sikalame Seitiso was also cagey when asked to provide details. “The negotiations are still ongoing as both parties have submitted their proposals. We are still working on the common grounds. No agreement has been made yet,” he said. According to Seitiso they expect the negotiations to be complete by the end of this month (March 31st). In his budget speech to parliament last month Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo reported that the economy would record a lower growth rate this year.
This is despite a projected budget surplus of P280.83 million. Matambo was cautious on the issue of salary increment for public servants saying government has made an offer to unions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised government on many occasions to trim her seemingly bloated annual wage bill of P13 billion (about 10 percent GDP) consumed by her 130 000 employees. Were the unions and government to settle for a four percent hike, the wage bill will increase by P520 million to about P13.5 billion. But if the unions have their way, the proposed adjustment will drive the wage bill to about P15 billion, a third of the total budget proposal for 2015/16.
Last year Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) presented a paper arguing that they need to be protected against inflation saying the high inflation rate due to the increase in some administered prices, namely public transport fares, electricity tariffs and fuel prices has led to a decline in real salary value. They noted that this high inflation can therefore be mitigated by incentives, allowances and better pay.