Unions plan mass demonstrations

Justice Kavahematui & Nicholas Mokwena
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Unions plan mass demonstrations

…As salary negotiations collapse

Trade union bosses are calling for mass mobilisation of workers and the public against government, following a failed salary negotiations meeting this week. Government on Tuesday pulled out from the Bargaining Council when Trade Unions caught them unawares by accepting the 3 percent salary increment previously proposed by the employer. According to Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Deputy General Secretary for Botswana Federation for Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEPUSU) government then made the flimsy excuse that BOFEPUSU should not be in the Bargaining Council.

The employer then pulled out of the Bargaining Council. This effectively means salary negotiations between government and trade unions will not continue and there will be no salary hike for civil servants before the two warring parties solve their differences. In an interview with the Botswana Guardian Motshegwa said his trade union is left with no other option but to mobilise workers and the public in general against government.
Government last week lost a case against BOFEPUSU over the scope of work for the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). Motshegwa says all they wanted to do as a union was to set principle that all salary increases or negotiations should be done through the PSBC.

Following the antics by the employer on Tuesday, Motshegwa says the government is, “stubborn and ruthless” and is hell-bent on destroying the PSBC and trade unions.
He told this publication that on the 1st of May (Labour Day) they will engage on mass demonstrations against the government.  The demonstrations will then continue every month-end until government heeds their pleas or until 2019 when the country goes for the General Elections.

According to him the government’s actions pose instability and threaten the security of the country. “We are also doing international lobbying,” he said, adding that this will be done through the Public Service International (a trade union federation of over 500 public sector unions in over 140 countries) and Education International (Global Union Federation (GUF) of teachers’ trade unions consisting of 401 member organisations in 172 countries). Motshegwa further revealed that they are in talks with other trade unions outside Botswana to petition Botswana embassies in their countries regarding the sorry state of labour unions in Botswana.

On Tuesday BOFEPUSU was ready to accept the 3 percent increment proposed by the employer against a 13.5 percent increment proposed by trade unions. This, according to Motshegwa was for the best interests of harmonious labour relations, peace and stability of the country.

According to a leaked concluding statement signed by PSBC Chairperson Tsetsele Fantan, PSBC General Secretary Willard Ulaula, Government representative Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Permanent Secretary Kebonye Moepeng and Samuel Molaodi representing the trade union BOFEPUSU-  Acting Jointly Agreement (AJA) a deadlock was reached on Tuesday this week.
The trade union indicated that in the best interest of harmonious labour relations, peace and stability of the country, they forthwith accept 3 percent proposed by government as a compromise from trade union party’s proposal of 13.5 percent for 2016/17.

The union also stated that the matter of the scope of the PSBC was determined by Justice Motswagole, hence the need to go straight to the acceptance of 3 percent. The employer on the other hand proposed that a new agenda item be included immediately after the welcome remarks dealing with the compliance to the PSBC Constitution as per its letter to the general secretary dated 14th April 2015.

Government has argued that BOFE PUSU-AJA was not constitutionally before the PSBC. In the concluding statement the employer party stated that PSBC Procedures for meetings and negotiations do not prevent the addition of an agenda item at a special meeting. The two parties resolved that they agreed to disagree on this matter.

“A new agenda item cannot be included in this meeting as this is a special meeting convened specifically for salary negotiations that commenced on the 8th of November 2016, and this one is just a continuation,” argued the BOFEPUSU declining the employer’s proposal for inclusion of a new item as the meeting was convened exclusively to deal with the salary negotiations for the year 2015/16.

The employer party argued that it was important to include the item in the agenda since it will enable the council to confirm whether it is duly constituted. The employer stated “the council last met on the 8th of November 2016. In terms of Article 8.1 of the PSBC Constitution, the union party was to have submitted its audited membership figures by 31st January 2017 in order to review its membership”.

Although the union declined the inclusion of this item, the employer party maintained that it would not be procedural to proceed with a meeting without confirmation of whether the meeting is properly constituted. The employer party declined to respond to any substantive issues proposed prior to adoption of the agenda, says the concluding statement. PSBC General Secretary Ulaula had not at press time responded to a questionnaire sent to him and could not be reached on his mobile phone.

Last modified on Tuesday, 25 April 2017 14:57

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