Overtime cut pits Govt against public servants

SHARE   |   Monday, 14 November 2016   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Dr Mooko Dr Mooko

Government is headed for showdown with public servants after a decision by the employer to impose a moratorium, which dictates that "no employee should be allowed to earn overtime in excess of 10% of their basic salary". Public officers, through their trade unions, on Friday lodged a dispute with the Commissioner of Labour challenging the unilateral decision by the employer to vary their conditions of service without any consultation or negotiation. Deputy Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, confirmed on that they are taking the matter to the commissioner to challenge the unilateral decision that seeks to change conditions of service of employees. He said the decision is unlawful on different fronts. "This Directive violates numerous statutes, among them, the Employment Act and provisions, rules and regulations of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) which itself is established by the Public Service Act, which govern the relationship between the employer and their employees. You cannot vary conditions protected by an Act of Parliament through a savingram, without amending the provisions of the said Act. We will fight to have the decision reversed to protect the conditions of service of public officers," said Motshegwa. 

The looming battle was sparked by Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, when he issued a Directive to all Permanent Secretaries instructing them to implement additional measures to contain public spending. Among a raft of drastic measures, Morupisi ordered that total overtime earned by a public officer should not exceed 10% of their basic salary. He also ordered ministries and government departments to reduce expenditure on workshops and seminars. In addition, public officers have been ordered to reduce spending by avoiding travelling during weekends save for emergency services. Among others, Morupisi's Directive was replicated by PS in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Dr Theophilus Mooko, through a savingram to all Directors stating that "no employee should be allowed to earn overtime in excess of 10% of their basic salary and the total expenditure on overtime should not exceed 10% of personal emoluments". He said such measures are justifiable and consistent with the government fiscal policy of effective expenditure management and control. In addition, Dr Mooko instructed that energy and water saving devices should be installed in all offices and institutions and that leaks be attended to promptly.

Teachers have reacted with anger at the decision on overtime, and have resolved to "cease to be engaged after hours or work overtime in response to this unilateral draconian moratorium". Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (BOSETU), Secretary General Tobokani Rari, said Mooko's circular savingram is unlawful as issues of overtime are regulated by an Act of parliament – the Employment Act. As such we hold that no one including the PSP has the right to put further restrictions on what Parliament has regulated, said Rari. "We put it to the PSP and all other proponents of this 10% regulation of overtime, which overrides the Employment Act to avail authority upon which they derive such a moratorium that in our view infringes on an Act of Parliament. The repercussions would be felt on the final year results," warned Rari.     

Rari further said they foresee chaos that would be caused by the savingram. If teachers are to stick to the moratorium not to accrue any overtime pay in access of 10%, a lot of work would suffer. To buttress the point of a gloomy picture ahead Rari narrates a hypothetical scenario.  "For instance, the bulk of the teachers are in C band salary scales of an average pay of about BPW14, 000 and if we are to stick to the moratorium that they should accrue overtime pay of not more than 10% of the salaries, it would then mean that, in a month, the total money that they could claim would be about P1, 400.00 which translates to only about 3 overtime hours in month. This definitely would mean that for teachers they would on average in a month work overtime in only two days which would leave a great deal of work suffering. Definitely such uninformed blind decisions would come to be felt when final results come out. The result is that teachers would ease to carry out official duties after hours. Supervision of course work projects, remedial lessons, enrichment activities, sporting activities will bear the brunt and would be greatly affected," he said.