BOFEPUSU has backed out of an urgent court application, which was scheduled to be heard on Friday morning "due to opportunistic issues'' threatening to paralyse the 2016/17 public service salary negotiations.
Late Friday evening BOFEPUSU spokesperson Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said they have entered into an agreement with other parties at the Public Sector Bargaining Council (PSBC) to allow for negotiations to continue on January 26 as proposed. He said "in the best interest of the negotiations to continue and upon the realisation that the lawsuit could cause further delays we have accepted the January 26 date in the hope that the secretariat would have concluded the verification process".
The meeting to discuss 2016/17 public servants' salaries before the PSBC was aborted on Monday 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 met 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 the fact that their application for admission to PSBC under the name "Botlhe Bargaining Forum" together with BOGOWU, TAWU and BONU had 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 channeled 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 had 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. The leadership of BOFEPUSU then filed an urgent application for contempt of the court order on Wednesday, whose effect was to force negotiations to start. BOFEPUSU is adamant that PSBC secretariat failed to comply with the court order.
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.