We applaud a decision by the represetantives of the six Cooperating Trade Unions currently negotiating with the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) representing the employer (government of Botswana) to withdraw from a useless merry making whirlwind tour around the country proposed under the guise of consulting workers.
As the Coordinator for the six Cooperating Trade Unions rightly points out, the intended nationwide tour will compromise the principles of negotiations, and will at best be a total waste of tax payer 's money on issues already known. The only beneficiaries will be those pot-bellied government officials drawing hefty per diem from state coffers to sponsor their holiday around the country under the pretext of consultation. What consultation!
Negotiations between trade unions and DPSM were partially concluded on aspect of salary adjustment early this year, while negotiations were to continue on conditions of service in terms of the Collective Labour Agreement entered into between the parties. The Unions had submitted their proposal on Conditions of service to the Employer during salary negotiations, and are in the process of submitting a revised version of the proposal. The challenges in public service in terms of Conditions of Service have been known by the employer for decades, having been presented before different fora including the defunct Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). Even after the PSBC was collapsed at the behest of Government of the Khama administration, trade unions continued engaging at sectoral level and have repeatedly submitted their grievances and challenges to the employer.
In addition, the process proposed by DPSM has already been undertaken by the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, when he travelled to every corner of this country to address workers and consult them about their working conditions. At these meetings public officers clearly spelt out their grievances, which had already been ventillated by their trade union representatives in different consultative fora anyway. Therefore, as the unions remind DPSM, it is not necessary for a large entourage to spend weeks criss-crossing the country consulting workers on issues that are already common cause, that have repeatedly been presented to DPSM and affiliate departments. What more does DPSM want to hear?
It is commendable that workers have found their voice and prevailed over their negotiating team forcing them to make a hasty retreat after previously agreeing to join the countrywide tour. Due to pressure from trade union members their leaders have abandoned the intended tour of the employer to allow for negotiations to start and progress to conclusion in reasonable time. To that effect , the trade unions are in the process of submitting their revised proposal this week and will now await DPSM to submit the government proposal .
The parties should dig in and get straight to the negotiations over the Conditions of Service of public officers, and consider recommendations of the Pemandu Report as agreed. DPSM sanctioned a consultancy work by Pemandu Consultants to assess conditions of service in Public Service. It now raises eyebrows that after spending a huge budget on expert consults to advise on the best way to resolve issues in the remuneration system, Government has now somersaulted and put a disclaimer that the contents of the report are not binding. Even more shocking, is the latest stunt where Government is trying to remove discussions over recommendations contained in the Pemandu Report from the agenda of the upcoming negotiations as previously agreed in preparatory sessions. Clearly Government is unhappy that Pemandu has suggested an improvement in the remuneration of civil servants, with a salary adjustment of no less than 10%. The "ga gona madi" song of Khama's era is no longer sustainable.
With the foregoing, the only logical conclusion is that Masisi's government or its representatives are being dishonest with workers. It is not far fetched to suspect that the current administration is trying to buy time ahead of the October general elections, after which DPSM will be instructed to collapse the negotiations. Politicians have been known to appease voters, particularly workers in the civil service who form a large constituency of voters, in an election year. Already the president of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), who are facing real danger of being toppled by the opposition in October, has repeatedly made commitment to expedite negotiations to conclude discussions around workers' conditions of service. It is therefore surprising that government officials do not seem to treat such committment with the urgency demonstrated by the president. Someone somewhere is playing games and lying to workers about commitment ot address their issues, if not then heads should be rolling over such recalcitrancy.
Trade union representatives should exert pressure and drag government/ the employer to the negotiation table to make commitment before elections, otherwise there will never be any other good time to harvest. As the cliche goes, Make hay while the sun shines...
We hope that as the unions propose, all proposals should have been exchanged before 29th May 2019, and negotiations be concluded within two weeks because workers are suffering and their conditions of service need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
We stand with the workers!