Unions sue govt over salaries

SHARE   |   Thursday, 25 October 2018   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
President Masisi with the newly appointed Commissiners President Masisi with the newly appointed Commissiners

Public sector trade unions will return to court this week to force government to reverse a decision by the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to declare their recognition invalid ahead of a meeting scheduled for tomorrow to dicuss salaries and conditions of service of civil servants.

The Masisi administration, that has recently been on charm offensive trying to build cordial relations with workers, particularly civil servants, is headed for an ugly showdown with  trade unions following an announcement on Tuesday by DPSM that government does not recognize any of them. Although she indicated that she does not have recognition agreements with Public Sector Trade Unions, DPSM Director Goitseone Naledi Mosalakatane on the same day wrote to the same trade unions inviting them for a meeting tomorrow (Monday 22nd October 2018), to continue with process for resuscitation of PSBC.

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The shocking announcement has derailed ongoing negotiations where trade unions have been engaging government in an effort to revive the defunct PSBC. The parties were scheduled to meet for continuation tomorrow where the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi and the Minister of Employment Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabeo, were scheduled to give feedback on issues presented before them, following an earlier adjournment on the 10th October 2018. 

Trade unions demand continuation of the process to resuscitate the PSBC and withdrawal of the DPSM stance that the unions are not recognised. The PSBC negotiations should have been completed by 30th September 2018, but got delayed as the employer questioned the recognition status of the Trade Unions and everything then stalled. Commenting on the review of salaries and conditions of service of public servants,  BOFEPUSU deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said they are troubled by inconsistencies on the side of the employer on important national matters. He said trade unions are dedicated and committed to the process of resuscitation of PSBC, to enable them to participate in decision making pertaining to their welfare and conditions of service. "The PSBC is also significant for enhancement of industrial democracy. We can only plead with government through DPSM to be serious and objective in these important national  issues. Conditions of service of workers need to be urgently addressed. How appropriate is it for government to say they don’t recognise the unions and at the same time expect them to participate in a process which strictly requires participation by recognised entities?," he cautioned.

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Motshegwa's warning comes after a letter to public sector unions on Tuesday 16th October 2018, wherein the Director of DPSM indicated that they are not recognised. Responding to the letter, the unions insist that they have fully complied and are duly  recognised, for they have always had a relationship with DPSM based on such Recognition Agreements. They explain that their Recognition Agreements are in terms of section 48 of Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act and Section 35 of Trade Dispute Act, and that DPSM adopted those recognition agreements from previous employers at the commencement of the Public Service Act.

Realising the delay in releasing of Pemandu Consultants -who have been engaged to review salaries for civil servants-on the August 3 2018, DPSM invoked section 51 of the Public Service Act, and invited recognised public sector trade unions for the purpose of resuscitating the PSBC. The first meeting was held on the 17th August 2018. A Reference Committee constituted by the employer and trade unions was set up to decide on the Constitution of PSBC and subsequent registration process. Further, a task team was set up for purpose of the actual drafting of the constitution, the task team is to report to Reference Committee who upon completion of their work, will cause for registration of the Council with Commissioner of Labour. 

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Since inception of the Public Service Act, trade unions have been recognized in terms section 48 of Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act (TUEOA) and the Trade Dispute Act (TDA). The implication of the non-recognition is that there will never be any Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) because the Public Service Act clearly states that the Council can only be established by the employer and all recognized trade unions . Still reeling shock Motshegwa said: “How do you attempt to resuscitate the Bargaining Council with trade unions that you do not recognize? Whoever advises Masisi on labour relations must be clueless or smoking something dangerous, or maybe the President himself is picking up where (former President Ian) Khama left off and unleashing war on trade unions. We are headed for a showdown. Masisi must be careful of his advisors because they are the same people who misled Khama into confrontation with trade unions. It is clear that beyond his promises and rhetoric the  Masisi administration is the same or might even be worse than Khama's”.

Motshegwa argues that it must be noted that Botswana ratified and consequently domesticated into Labour laws the following Conventions ; the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949 (No. 98); Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No.154) and  Labour Relations (Public Service ) Convention , 1978 (151). These Conventions compel public authorities to have a role in promoting full development and utilization of procedures and machinery for collective bargaining, and further to encourage constructive, meaningful and informed negotiations. “President Masisi who prides himself as a man who respects the rule of law has an obligation to see to it that his Government respects prevalence of Collective Bargaining as provided for by the law and ratified Conventions,” said Motshegwa.

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Salary Commission

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Meanwhile, the appointment of a Presidential Commission to review salaries and conditions of service of senior leadership in public service had brought a glimmer of hope among civil servants, who are growing restless and anxious due to lack of progress over their salary negotiations.

Many were optimistic that the establishment of the presidential commission will act as a precursor to progress on the long awaited pronouncement on the 2018/19 salary increase, which should have been made at the beginning of the current financial year in April. Now, civil servants have been exerting pressure on trade union leaders to update them about progress made in salary negotiations, which have stalled since the collapse of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).

With the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) comatose, Government has set up a task force to investigate the status of the council with the view to resuscitate or reconstitute it under a new more accomodating structure/ model. President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Wednesday appointed Court of Appeal judge Justice Monametsi  Gaongalelwe to lead a Presidential Commission to review salaries and conditions of service of senior leadership in public service.

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The Commission is mandated to inquire into salaries, Conditions of Service and Other Entitlement of the President, Vice President, The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ministers, Deputy Speaker, Assistant Ministers, Leader of Opposition, Members of Parliament, Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, Justices of Appeal, Judges of the High Court, Chairman of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, Chairpersons of District Councils, Mayors, their Deputies, Chairpersons of Sub-Councils and their Deputies and Councillors.

The Commissioners who constitute the Presidential Commission to Review Salaries, Conditions of Service and other Entitlements took an oath of allegiance on Wednesday afternoon. They include  former Tswapong MP Thebe Mogami, Ntshabele J. Manamela, Oduetse Motshidisi, former Kgatleng Councillor Motlhagodi Molomo, Chairperson of the defunct Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) Tsetsele Fantan and former Parliamentary Secretary Alpheus Matlhaku. Masisi also appointed three Secretaries to the Commission headed by Olesitse Masimega, asisted by Tebogo Tomango and Lesedi Gaolaolwe.

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Th appointment of the Commission has been received with mixed feelings, with complains from some quarters that the Commissioners are retirees who cannot appreciate current realities and the challenges faced by civil servants and workers in general. Some have complained that there is no representation of the labour movement in the Commission. 



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