COMMENTARY: Government must respect bargaining process

SHARE   |   Sunday, 08 February 2015   |   By Staff Writer

Long before negotiations over public service 2015/16 salaries started indications are that government has already decided on the outcome. The conduct of government, including statements made by the minister of finance in his presentation of the budget on Monday point to one thing- that government has already decided on the matter to the exclusion of the other bargaining partners-the employee representatives. The conduct of the employer could be deliberately calculate to undermine the bargaining process established by the Public Service Act or to discredit trade unions and their leadership. Otherwise why would government be in a hurry to award members of the discipline forces a increment ahead of their peers regardless that they may not be part of the bargaining process. It is therefore not suprising that some people think the bargaining process, which is recognised by law and is expected to take place between government and the employee representative in the next couple of weeks will just be a formality.
That the country has recorded a decline in international ratings on labour relations is a clear indication that we are not doing something right. For the umpteenth time we would like to urge the current President Ian Khama's administration to listen to the workers and negotiate with them in good faith. For government to try to apportion blame on trade unions does not help the situation in anyway. It only serves to aggravate the situation. The current poisoned relationship cannot be allowed to continue without an end. Academics have also joined the bandwagon pointing to serious weaknesses in the running of the economy neglecting the workers' welfare. Some have criticised the current scenario where government boasts of a stable ecocomy and commendable Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but disregarding a disgruntled workforce.  They correctly point out that economic growth is good, but growth without employment creation or without looking at the wellbeing of workers is worrisome. We concur that it would be ideal to have the economy growing marginally at the benefit of the majority than growing fast while only a few benefit.
It is distrubing to learn that Botswana, whom a few years back rated in the top fifty countries in the world with good labour relations to date ranks below 100. This does not portray a good image of our government to the international community.
While we note efforts by government to address issues of unemployment, poverty and to drive economic diversification we however remain unconvinced that pet projects like Ipelegeng can produce the desired results. These short term initiatives can only serve to drive people further into poverty and squalor. Government needs to invest in sustainable projects that could create jobs that will graduate people out of poverty in the long term.
A day after the presentation of the budget the legal year was opened at the high court. Of interest to note was concerns raised by the chairman of the law society, which have been raised by his predecessors. It would appear that government is not listening to some concerns raised by legal practitioners over the years which threatens to strain the relationship between government, the Bar and the Bench and in turn negatively affect the public.

Out of desperation the Law Society has resolved to explore alternative ways to overcome the challenges that would otherwise have been addressed by the amendments they had proposed to government to the legal practitioners act. The Society threatens that it may in future not support amendments to the Act or promulgation of Regulations that are not a priority for the profession. This standoff is not good for the deliveruy of justice.

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We associate ourselves with concerns raised over the appointment of judges to the court of appeal. The concern of the Society is that whilst the Court of Appeal is the highest court of the land and therefore requires a stricter and more robust appointment process, the opposite seems to be the case. Vacancies of Judges of the Court of Appeal, unlike all others are not advertised. The appointment process is shrouded in such secrecy that even the LSB, which is represented in the JSC, is sometimes faced with considering a candidate without the background of how the application came about. Such an approach impacts negatively on perceptions of independence of the Court. We cannot agree more!

Another thorny issue is the delayed delivery of judgments, which is characteristic of some judges. This adversely affects the delivery of justice to the public and cannot be tolerated. We hope the Administration of justice will continue to come up with strategies to ensure that judgement s are delivered on time so as not to deny justice to the deserving public. As suggested, Judges with a backlog of outstanding Judgments should not be allocated more cases before they dispense of those they are delaying.



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