>BOFEPUSU applies for contempt of court to force progress
The meeting to discuss 2016/17 public servant's salaries before the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) was aborted Monday night when government representatives failed to agree with trade unions over the agenda to be followed. The Monday meeting was ordered by the Industrial court for the council to deliberate on the outcome of a membership verification process as outlined in an earlier settlement agreement between the parties. Court ordered the verification process after Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) indicated that they were no longer part of a joint agreement to be collectively admitted as a trade union party at the (PSBC) with four other public sector unions affiliated to BOFEPUSU.
At the commencement of the proceedings General Secretary of PSBC-Patla Ulaula- indicated that the verification process was incomplete due to time constraints and inadequate information submitted by the parties to the council. Consequently the Secretariat was not in a position to determine if the trade unions still meet the required threshold for admission to PSBC negotiations. Ulaula then requested an extension up to January 26 to complete the process. Such declaration angered the trade union party (BOFEPUSU councillors), who ironically among them sat two representatives of BOPEU- Francinah Senyarelo and Olefile Monakwe.
BOPEU sat in the meeting despite that their application for admission to PSBC under the name "Botlhe Bargaining Forum" together with BOGOWU, TAWU and BONU has not been approved. Therefore, they (BOPEU) attended the meeting under the joint arrangement with other unions affiliated to the federation even though on 11 December 2015 they had written a letter to the minister of labour and home affairs confirming their disaffiliation from BOFEPUSU. "We trust that in future any matters of direct interest to BOPEU would be channelled directly to us," read part of the letter to minister of labour, Edwin Batshu, signed by acting secretary general Ketlhapeleng Karabo.
BOFEPUSU insisted at the Monday meeting that the threshold need not be determined as it was previously established, arguing that even if verification process has not been completed the council could still deliberate on other items on the agenda as per the court order. But government representatives refused, insisting on an extension to complete the verification process first. After leaving PSBC around midnight the leadership of BOFEPUSU spent the better part of Tuesday morning locked in a meeting with lawyers drafting an urgent application to file on Wednesday. "We want this case to be heard Wednesday so that we proceed with the business of PSBC.
We cannot continue playing hide and seek with BOPEU when we should be sitting for negotiations proper with the employer," said a fuming federation leader Tuesday afternoon. BOFEPUSU, who are adamant that PSBC secretariat failed to comply, were planning to file an urgent application for contempt of the court order on Wednesday, the ruling of which could force negotiations to start. Last Friday, Topias Marenga - BOPEU Secretary General - said they had submitted an application to join proceedings at PSBC together with their audited membership figures directly to PSBC secretariat for verification and were awaiting the outcome. Marenga also confirmed that they have left the joint arrangement and were not part of the court case, and hence will now go it alone. He however said then that they had not received feedback from PSBC regarding their application for admission.