Unions push for resumption of salary talks

Nicholas Mokwena - BG reporter
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Unions push for resumption of salary talks

Government might find itself once more having to pay a huge wage bill in back pays for public servants due to the delayed salary negotiations, Botswana Guardian has established.Government has in the previous financial year paid salaries for public servants through supplementary budget as negotiations for increment were reached long after the budgeting process has been concluded. Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo has on several occasions called for conclusion of salary negotiations on time so that when budgeting is done the agreed increment percentage could be included.

He said this would result in government avoiding over expenditure.Salary negotiations, which could have started early this year, have since stalled following several court cases lodged by trade unions. Government’s attempt to increase salaries by 3 percent were frustrated by Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) interdicting the increase through court. Government’s argument was that it is cushioning the public servants since negotiations are taking long to start. The Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) has since failed to convene to start the talks. Unions have blamed the leadership of the PSBC for delaying the process.

On the 16th June 2016 the Court of Appeal directed the bargaining council to convene for the 2015/16 salary negotiations. It also ordered for verification of BOFEPUSU numbers as the date of the judgement to determine whether BOFEPUSU can continue being in the Bargaining Council. The court also ordered that Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) make an application to the PSBC to be admitted.BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa this week revealed that they have since submitted their numbers in compliance with the order of June 2016.

He said that it has been three months since the Secretariat has been furnished with the matter despite the matter having been an urgent application, “This continued delay is tantamount to contempt of court orders and it continues to negatively impact on the functionality of the Bargaining Council and the need to expeditiously conclude the salary negotiations. The need to conclude salary negotiations is critical in the sense that there is need to improve conditions of service and salaries at a time of high cost of living and inflationary burden on the public servants.

We are worried and disturbed by the delay caused by the Secretariat and we suspect it is a move in cahoots with the Government to cause instability within workers when they act out of desperation that the negotiations are delayed” he indicated. Motshegwa said the Secretariat of the PSBC seem to be determined not to convene meetings of the Council and it is a year since there has not been an Annual General Meeting, Council and Sub Committees of the Council. It remains unclear as to whom the Secretariat report to in the absence of convening of its forums and how they account, he said.

Motshega said they have since given the Secretariat of the PSBC up to today (Friday) to have put notice of convening of salary negotiations and the Annual General Meeting of the Council failing which they will be compelled to haul the Secretariat of the Council before the Court for contempt of Court order. BOPEU General Secretary, Topias Marenga said they have not submitted their name for admission into the PSBC. He said BOPEU is currently having its figures for membership being audited as per the PSBC constitution.
“People should also understand that we are not playing any contribution in the delay of the talks. As court of appeal has stated if we fail to submit then negotiations can continue without us.

The requirements are that audited figures done by a duly recognised auditor should be submitted which is why we have engaged Price Waterhouse Coopers (pwc) to do the auditing for us. BOPEU leadership is meeting on the 24th of this month where expectation is to study the report from our auditors”, said Marenga. He explained that after studying the report then the union leadership if satisfied would direct him to submit the audited figures.

PSBC General Secretary Wilard Ulaula said it is their interest to ensure that verification exercise is concluded and other businesses of the council resume. The secretary stated that the exercise is still ongoing. He denied that his office ever received any letter relating to salary negotiations from BOFEPUSU. Ulaula said the PSBC Secretariat has not received any complaint from BOFEPUSU on this matter. He dismissed accusations that they are colluding with government to sabotage or delay the negotiations.

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