Statistics Botswana sued

SHARE   |   Monday, 08 August 2016   |   By Staff Writer
Majelantle and Motsamai Majelantle and Motsamai

Statistics Botswana (SB) will on Thursday lock horns with several of their employees at the high court over the disparity in the new pay structure and discrepancy of its implementation with educational qualifications since the migration exercise of 2012. Statistics Botswana, which gobbled P64 million (2015/16) in basic salary costs, allowances, overtime and other indirect staff costs, was formed in 2009 taking over the functions of a government department previously known as Central Statistics Office. Soon after the migration exercise to Statistics Botswana in 2012, a number of employees raised grievances that they were unfairly notched and graded. A Salary Grievances Task Force was formed to holistically look into the pay structure, assess grievances and make recommendations to management for a final decision. Management of the embattled parastatal is now accused of discrimination and favouritism during implementation of the new pay structure recommended by the task force.

Although management and the board assured the complainants that they will act on the recommendations to address the discrepancies that never happened. Statistics Botswana even failed to attend a hearing for intercession on the matter before the district labour office in September 2014. Without opposition, a default award was made to the complainants. They contended that employees employed at the same time, with the same qualifications and performing the same duties are remunerated differently without any just cause. Further, they argued that some employees with less qualifications and levels of operations earned more than their principals and supervisors, which created a supervisory hiccup within the structures of Statistics Botswana.

The aggrieved employees, through their trade union BOPEU, lodged the case at the High Court after management continued to disregard the September 2014 award by the commissioner of labour. In an affidavit signed by BOPEU president Andrew Motsamai, they argue that there are inconsistencies in grading and notching salary bands of Enumerators, Data Capture Operators, Data Capture Clerks, Accounts Clerks and the Executive Secretary position. They also point to percentage inconsistencies between notches and problems created by the overlapping pay structure. Motsamai submits that the pay structure has to conform to the provisions of the terms and conditions of service, which form part of the contract entered into between the parties. "Employees similarly circumstanced in terms of the rubrics outlined in the terms and conditions of service ought to be similarly remunerated. Having initially thought it was an administrative glitch, applicant's members remained loath that it will be corrected," reads part of Motsamai's affidavit.

He says the implementation of the pay structure skews the playing field in favour of favoured employees, giving them unfair advantage because of glitches in the pay structure. He also added that the chaos that would result if the disparity continues to be in place will drive a spate of hatred between the employees belonging to the same cadre due to differential treatment. Chief Executive Officer of Statistics Botswana, Annah Ngalapi Majelantle, argues in response that the application should be dismissed with costs because it is misplaced and has got no basis whatsoever.  Moreover, Majelantle argues that the lawsuit was brought prematurely, because the applicants have not exhausted all internal processes set in place to discuss, consult, negotiate and resolve grievances. Therefore, she says, court should throw out the lawsuit because the trade union has disregarded provisions of the collective labour agreement and after only a few exchanges of correspondence between the parties they rushed to court.

Majelantle denies that Statistics Botswana management ignored invitation for hearing at the district labour office, saying such invitation reached their office in October 2014, a month after the hearing. She insists that Statistics Botswana management has implemented all the recommendations and addressed all grievances as raised by employees. She, however, says the report of the task force is a product of management decision and contains confidential information about employees who are not members of BOPEU, and therefore could not be availed to them. "There are no notches (in the new structure) and the gaps in salaries have been reduced. There now exists what is called minimum, midpoint and maximum payment structures and the issue of notches has been eradicated. For those who were overpaid and out of the present market structure, their salaries have been frozen as it would have been illegal to reduce their salaries which now becomes a personal right," reads part of Majelantle's affidavit.