Thousands of public servants, who were sidelined from salary increments since 2016, will be smiling all the way to the bank starting June following an agreement on Friday morning between Government and BOFEPUSU leaders. It has since emerged that Government bowed to pressure to award the increments after Justice Tshepo Motswagole ruled on Wednesday that an interim order he issued earlier, which barred government from awarding salary increments to a section of the public service, is still operational. The interim order is returnable on Thursday (June 01) where the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Ruth Maphorisa and Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi were to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for disobeying Motswagole's judgment. The duo are already in contempt since Government continued excluding BOFEPUSU members from the 3% and 4% increases, even after Motswagole ordered that the scope of the Public Service Bargaining Council extends to all public service because they all benefit from products and decisions of the bargaining process. Maphorisa and Morupisi will however escape jail after DPSM worn a concession from BOFEPUSU to withdraw the pending contempt of court case and the 4% interim order. On the same day (24th May 2017) that Motswagole extended his interim order to Thursday, Maphorisa dispatched letters to BOFEPUSU trade unions accepting their request for salary increases. "In response to your request and in view of what transpired at the High court on the return date of the order nisi issued under case number MAHGB 000343-16 and the pending contempt of court case, Government only start paying the salary increment with respect to your members only after the aforementioned cases have been withdrawn and abandoned," wrote Maphorisa.
The agreement has deflated growing tension in the civil service as government continued to refuse to award the 7 % salary increase for 2016-18 financial years to employees belonging to BOFEPUSU trade unions. Frustration reached boiling point last Thursday (18th May 2017) when DPSM issued a savingram citing members of trade unions under the BOFEPUSU banner for exclusion from any salary increments. DPSM reasoned that this was done because an appeal they filed together with BOPEU on the scope of the bargaining council is yet to be heard at the Court of Appeal in October. Clearly, government overlooked the May 24 return date before Motswagole, which the federation pursued with vigour arguing that the stay orders issued by Gaongalelwe are invalid as he heard the matter un-procedurally. "Reference is made to DPSM Circular Savingram DP 19/72 VII (8) dated 30th May 2016. Addressees are informed that following the 4% increment as per Permanent Secretary to the President’s Press Release and subsequent stay of the orders issued in Case number MAHGB 000343-16 by the Court of Appeal in Case number CACGB 057-17 Public Service Management Directive No 4 of 2017, Ref: DP 19/4 VIII (69) should apply to unionised members of the public service who are not members of the following Unions," wrote Maphorisa. The cited unions are NALCGPWU (former Manual Workers Union), Botswana Teachers Union, Botswana Sectors of Educators Union, and Botswana Landboards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union. Notwithstanding that BOFEPUSU has withdrawn from the bargaining council early May, DPSM maintained that the effect of the stay ruling by Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe is that Government continues to pay the 3% (which was effected on 1st April 2016) and 4% (which was effected on 1st April 2017) to Public Officers who are not members of the Unions that make up BOFEPUSU. At the beginning of May BOFEPUSU AJA had terminated its membership at the PSBC, a decision endorsed by a Special Congress of the federation held on 6th May 2017. The decision was taken to remove any further excuse not to pay public servants who are members of the BOFEPUSU affiliated unions the 3% and the 4% enjoyed by their colleagues. Maphorisa ignored an ultimatum for Friday 12th May 2017 set in the letter notifying her of the withdrawal, which demanded that the employer commit to pay the increments to public servants who are members of the BOFEPUSU affiliated unions.
A statement from PSBC on Tuesday confirmed the termination. It is signed by Tsetsele Fantan (Chairperson), Willard Ulaula (General Secretary), Kitso Dithokwa (government) and Samuel Molaodi (trade unions). BOFEPUSU leadership met DPSM on Monday (22nd May 2017) evening over the latter's refusal to pay employees belonging to the federation the 3% and 4% increment already enjoyed by other public servants. Ahead of the meeting Tobokani Rari, Secretary General of the federation said: "It is our utmost hope that this meeting will close the matter at hand and correct anomalies, otherwise we will have no choice but to sue the employer for increment differential treatment and lack of parity". Since last year (2016), Government has been awarding salary increases to non-unionised employees and those belonging to trade unions outside the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) under the excuse that negotiations were still ongoing at the council. The differential award approach was adopted after the federation successfully sued President Ian Khama and Government for making unilateral salary increment outside the Council, disregarding and circumventing ongoing negotiations. Ever since then, no bargaining took place as Government refused to start negotiations before court decided on the scope of the council. Government lost when Justice Tshepo Motswagole agreed with the interpretation of the federation that the scope of the PSBC covers all public servants because outcomes of the bargaining process benefit all. Government argues that since they have appealed the Motswagole decision, an appeal scheduled to be heard in October, they cannot increase salaries. It however is interesting that the outcome of the appeal on the scope of the PSBC will have no bearing on public servants qualifying for increment. There is currently no PSBC after the federation withdrawal.