Unions hold Masisi against his word

Edward Bule - BG Correspondent
Tuesday, 07 May 2019
Unions hold Masisi against his word

Deputy President of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), Obeile Molamu has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to honour his promise to resuscitate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). When Dr Masisi took over as president he promised to revive the PSBC and even put a timeline to it, that it would be up and running by the end of September 2018.

“Even as we celebrate this day, this promise has not been fulfilled. We hold you against your word your Excellency and demand that the PSBC should be up and running as early as yesterday,” said Molamu during the May Day commemoration.  The commemoration, held under the theme Building A Better Botswana: Workers’ Meaningful Participation In Social Justice And Democracy, was seen as historic by some because it was a joint event between Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and its offshoot, BOFEPUSU.
Both unions had never seen eye to eye since the inception of the latter in 2012.

While commending government for a salary adjustment following an agreement of 6 percent and 10 percent for the two financial years 2019/20, 2020/21 respectively, the unionist said, “We however would like to emphasise that there is a dire and urgent need for PSBC as an institution so that such negotiations are held in legally established institutions rather than by temporary and makeshift structures.”  Molamu also noted that even though some progress had been made with respect to making amendments to the labour laws with the assistance of experts from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) there was still a lot to be done. 

He said that, although meetings have been held and the Acts to be amended agreed upon, “…government’s attitude especially as exhibited by the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) has been quite worrisome. “At some point DPSM held parties at ransom by refusing that the Public Service Act be part of the Acts to be reviewed through this process”. He said Government has also not been forthcoming in aligning the list of essential service to the ILO framework definition of essential service and also in allowing the Prisons Service to unionise.

“Up until today, the government’s position on the two issues is not clear,” he complained. Molamu also called upon government to speedily adopt the Performance Management Delivery Unit made at great financial cost by a Malaysian consultancy (PEMANDU).  Among other things, the report recommended an increase of 20 percent for public servants on grade A and B; 10 percent for grade C and D; and 15 percent for grade E and F. The union leader complained that while negotiations on the PEMANDU report were ongoing, government made changes in the pay structure of the armed forces that resulted in the improvement of salaries and structures of the armed forces. 

“We are quite alive to the fact that the armed forces are not within the bargaining unit of the trade unions, however, government should be aware of the fact that the courts have held that changing the conditions of service of those outside the bargaining unit while there are ongoing negotiations on similar conditions of work does not only prejudice the negotiation process but also is pre-emptive to the process,” said the union leader. “This is the same conduct for which we have condemned during the Khama administration,” declared Molamu.

He did not even spare politicians whose actions of adjusting their own salaries he finds totally repugnant and unethical.  Members of Parliament (MPs), Councillors and Dikgosi recently got a salary adjustment. “There is no doubt that it is unethical as it amounts to a direct conflict of interest. “As BOFEPUSU, we take this very seriously and call for a situation in which an independent body is established to consider the remuneration of the political officers. “We are therefore worried that inspite of the fact that government was reluctant in going beyond the 6 percent and 10 percent increment for the public service under the pretext that any more percentages of increment would balloon the budget deficit beyond the allowed 4 percent deficit of the total GDP, in increasing the salaries of politicians, this principle seems to have been ignored.

“This then puts to question the honesty and sincerity of government during the negotiation process,” he complained. Molamu lamented the absence of organised industrial councils in the private sector.  He called upon government to intervene and ensure that different sectors in the private sector have Industrial Councils.  “The starting point however is to amend the Trade Dispute Act to ease up the establishment of such. Failure by government will always leave trade unions and employees in the private sector hamstrung and toothless.  “This is yet another test that we put before President Masisi if ever he has the welfare of Batswana at heart,” Molamu said.

The BOFEPUSU deputy president, cried out to President Dr Masisi for private sector workers in Chinese restaurants and shops, filling stations, media houses, private security services, other businesses whom he said got slave wages.  He called upon government to introduce a minimum wage. “Failure to do so would indicate lack of commitment to protect Batswana from these profit oriented monopolistic capitalists,” he said lamenting that, although labour laws exist to protect the workers, some companies intimidate their workers and prevent them from unionising or joining existing unions due to the absence of labour inspection institutions.  He also blamed the existence of weak enforcement of the existing laws as per the requirement of the ILO convention on labour inspections as another reason for the easy intimidation of workers.

Lamenting widespread corruption and the syphoning of the Pension Fund money, Molamu called upon Dr Masisi to act.  He is not happy that workers are not protected when there are retrenchments. “When a company closes on account of non- performance or liquidation, it is not bound by the law to disclose its performance in terms of availing its books of accounts to the employees,” he said adding that there is regrettably no provision for a retrenchment package in the law.  In response, President Masisi promised that with regard to the PSBC, he will act as swiftly as possible to ensure that the institution is resuscitated.

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