Delegates to the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) special congress held in Palapye on Saturday have unanimously resolved to reject the three percent salary increase for 2016/17 announced by government. The resolution complicates Government's decision to pay the 3 per cent into salaries of public servants who do not belong to BOFEPUSU being management cadres, the non-unionised, the discipline forces and those belonging to other trade unions outside the federation. After government officials announced that they will go ahead and pay public servants the three per cent increase at the beginning of the 2016/17 financial year in April, the federation obtained a court order preventing the employer from effecting the increase on their members before the bargaining process is concluded.
Briefing the delegates Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said after the court order they were summoned to a meeting with Carter Morupisi - Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), who told them that government payroll system cannot differentiate between the different set of employees. Morupisi, therefore, wanted to persuade BOFEPUSU leaders to allow government to effect the 3 % increase on all public servants, including their members contrary to the court order. Government has since issued a circular savingram stating that they are reinstating the 3% increment only for public servants who are not members of the applicant unions. The savingram effectively means that members of BOSETU, BTU, Amalgamated Manual Workers and BLLAWHU will not benefit from the 3%. But the delegates responded with a resounding "aeeeyeee!" "We refused because in our view the bargaining council still has an opportunity to consider proposals from the employer and the trade unions before a decision is reached. We refused to endorse government position, which undermines the existence of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) as envisaged in the Public Service Act. Morupisi has even failed to put his request in writing," said Motshegwa.
A day before the special congress BOFEPUSU got a major boost when on Friday the Court of Appeal (CoA) ruled that contrary to an earlier judgment by the Industrial Court, the PSBC still exists. Attorney Mboki Chilisa explained that the effect of the judgment is that the Acting Jointly Arrangement (AJA) made up of the four trade unions remains admitted to PSBC under the name BOFEPUSU, save for the verification process. The three CoA judges Justice Ian Kirby, Isaac Lesetedi and Monametsi Gaongalelwe ruled that the AJA is admissible to the bargaining council provided one of the trade unions under the arrangement meets the requisite one third threshold. Chilisa said based on the previous verification process in February the National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPW) - meet the threshold and therefore qualifies Bofepusu to remain admitted to PSBC. The judges found that Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) ceased to be a member of PSBC when it pulled out of the AJA through which it had been admitted, but emphasised that it could still be admitted through the Botlhe Bargaining Forum (BBF) application, provided one of the unions under the arrangement meet the threshold. Other constituents of BBF are BONU, TAWU and BOGOWU.
On Tuesday the AJA resubmitted their membership numbers for verification. BOFEPUSU has called on the PSBC Secretariat to expedite the verification process to be completed within seven days of submission of members' names, to enable negotiations to resume next week. BOPEU, on the other hand, has not indicated when they will submit their numbers for verification. On Monday the union said in a statement: "Emotions are still stirred up, some in the leadership are unable to see the woods for the trees. We would therefore wait for emotions to subside and await engagement on serious workers issues".
BOFEPUSU changes name
Meanwhile, the special congress also adopted a resolution to open up membership to admit trade unions organising in parastatals and the private sector. Already the federation has accepted numerous applications for affiliation from trade unions in the said sectors, and is currently extending technical support to some of them. The new name proposed will be Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU). Other resolutions include the adoption of a motto and numerous Constitutional Amendments that will, among other things, introduce some structures and positions at different levels of the organogram and define the functions and roles of such.