Unions angered by 3% increase

SHARE   |   Monday, 04 April 2016   |   By Staff Writer
Public servants during the 2011 Public strike Public servants during the 2011 Public strike

Public service employees have reacted with anger over the announcement of a three per cent hike for 2016/17 salaries, dismissing it as an April Fool's joke. Director of Public Service Management, Ruth Maphorisa, shocked public servants on Wednesday when she announced that Government has decided to award a salary increase of three per cent across the board. The Public Service Management Directive No.4 of 2016 on adjustment of salaries states that the increase will apply to the public service including members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police, Prisons Service, Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). The directive took effect from 1st April 2016.

Public servants are complaining that the three percent fades into nothing in comparison to the huge increment awarded MPs in 2015. There is a raging debate in the current session of Parliament, where in a rare show of unity, MPs from both sides of the aisle are in agreement that their salaries and conditions of service should be improved to give them decent status.  Last year Parliament passed the National Assembly Salaries and Allowances Amendment Bill of 2015 which led to MP's salaries being increased. The salaries of the President and Vice President were increased by 26 percent, Cabinet Ministers’ salaries by 38 percent, while the Leader of Opposition, Deputy Speaker and Assistant Ministers’ salaries were increased by 39 percent.

Ordinary MPs’ salaries were increased by 32 percent. Other allowances and benefits due to the MPs such as constituency, hospitality, communication and many others were also increased by six percent. Such hefty increments have sparked complaints from public servants who insist that government's argument that the economy is struggling to recover from the effects of the 2008/09 recession and the current global commodities slump, is a lie. According to the White Paper on Public Service salaries the most senior public servant, the Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi's basic salary will increase from P651, 348 to P670, 896 annually while his colleagues at the bottom A3 Scale with get a measly increase from P15, 528 to P15, 996 per annum or just P39.33 per month.

The CJ/PSP salary excludes a whooping P14, 591.40 Entertainment Allowance and other benefits like judges' Robe Allowance (P2, 517.85), judges' Housing Allowance at P6, 545.45 per month and Housing and Upkeep Allowance at 1% of basic salary for E2 and above scales. Meanwhile, shift workers will get an allowance of P4.90/day (night) or P3.75/day (morning/afternoon)

Public sector trade unions have also dismissed the salary adjustment as a joke, which will not improve the lives of workers as the three per cent is far outstripped by inflation and cost of living. Secretary General for BOFEPUSU Tobokani Rari said "We are really disappointed but not surprised by their action". BOFEPUSU also complain that the unilateral increment outside the bargaining council is clear arrogance and disrespect for the rule of law demonstrated by government. In 2015 BOFEPUSU dragged President Ian Khama and DPSM to court seeking an order to stop him from disregarding the bargaining council and announcing salary increase while negotiations on the same were still ongoing.

The High Court has ruled that the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) is the only forum recognised by statute that can make a pronouncement on public service salaries at the conclusion of a bargaining process. Notwithstanding the judgment, Government has gone ahead and unilaterally announced a three per cent across the board salary adjustment for public servants. Rari said; "Ours is a government which is not shy to interfere with the court processes and disregards the rule of law. It is common knowledge that the courts of laws of this country, in particular the Court of Appeal is still ceased with the issue of the PSBC and salary negotiations. On the other government disregards the court process and unilaterally awards. This a clear sign of disregard and disrespect of the courts of laws of this country. Government by so doing further disregards and disrespects a ruling by Judge Leburu of 2015 that prohibited the President and the employer, DPSM, from overriding the PSBC".

The 2016/17 salary negotiations never commenced at the PSBC following a fall-out between public sector trade unions under BOFEPUSU on one side and BOPEU on the other. The two are fighting over admission to the Council after BOPEU withdrew from the federation and eventually from the Acting Jointly Arrangement under which public sector trade unions had been admitted to the bargaining council. Attempts to have the parties resolve the dispute amicably has failed and the case will be heard by the Court of Appeal on April 26.  Government has taken advantage of the stalemate, which has paralysed the PSBC and stalled negotiations, to announce the three per cent increment for public servants.