Civil servants are threatening to paralyse service delivery by engaging in massive demonstrations to force government to resume negotiations with trade unions, and implement recommendations contained in the PEMANDU report.
The threat was delivered by civil servants from various trade unions who gathered in Gaborone and Francistown on Thursday to map the way forward as they strongly believe that government has adopted delaying tactics to avoid implementing PEMANDU recommendations. Established in September 2009, Malaysia’s Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) are public service specialist consultants who were engaged by Botswana government, through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) in 2017 to review salaries and conditions of service for public officers, in comparison with global and regional trends and make recommendations.
Top of the PEMANDU recommendations, which has attracted a lot of attention from civil servants, is the double digit increment for different cadres proposed in the report. Fuelling the demand for higher salary increment is the recent decision by Government to make hefty adjustments for members of the discipline forces which has become commonly known as ntlole. Vice President Slumber Tsogwane's revelation on Tuesday that government does not have funds to support any salary increment for other civil servants in the current financial year has only aggravated anxiety among government workers who feel unfairly treated.
Tsogwane made the announcement at a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) monthly briefing, saying other cadres whose salaries have already been increased earlier this year should refrain from being jealous of soldiers and police officers over ntlole. He said while other political parties talk about paying P3000 minimum living wage the BDP government does not want to shock workers by promising them figures that will not be sustainable. Consequently, Tsogwane said salary negotiations for this year have been closed and will only resume next year.
One civil servant who attended the Francistown meeting, Lux Mboni said the union leadership has been treating government with kids’ gloves despite the employer’s habit of deliberately postponing salary negotiations. “Le rona re batla ntlole. We need to engage on weekly demonstrations to show the employer how serious we are about the issue of salary increase and improved conditions of service. If the need arises we should engage in an industrial action like we did in 2011,”Mboni declared amid ululations from multitudes who attended the gathering at the civic centre hall.
Another public officer, Isaac Mogapi, observed that they need to pile pressure on government to conclude salary negotiations before the current winter Parliament session adjourns. “Once the current parliament session is dissolved it will be very difficult to seat on the negotiating table with employer because the leadership will now focus their attention at the upcoming general elections and that will be a big blow to us,” he added, supported by Keletso Kalaotswe who reiterated that engaging in a massive strike is the only viable option that will force the employer to take them seriously. Kalaotswe said all public servants should engage in that industrial strike so that the employer can respond swiftly to their demands.
Earlier on, the Coordinator of a team representing six public sector trade unions currently negotiating with Government, Tobokani Rari, had informed the gathering that government is playing hide and seek when asked to implement the recommendations of the PEMANDU report. The outspoken Rari revealed that, in their research PEMANDU consultants had found that civil servants in Botswana are underpaid compared to their counterparts in parastatals and private sector. “The report also found that public servants in Botswana are paid below the market as compared to other countries in Southern Africa such as South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia,” Rari declared.
According to Rari, the report therefore recommended a salary hike of 15 per cent for public servants at lower scales while those in higher scales should receive a 10 per cent salary increment. He noted that as trade unions they welcome such recommendations as they have been advocating for a meaningful salary increase for public servants who are impoverished due to low wages.
Rari said they were shell shocked when Vice President Slumber Tsogwane announced during a Botswana Democratic Party(BDP) monthly press briefing on Tuesday that there will be no salary increment for this year. Rari said Tsogwane was disingenuous and misdirected himself to make such a declaration. “The Vice President is not part of the negotiations and as such he is an intruder. Tsogwane misled the nation when he said trade unions are the ones delaying salary negotiations,” he charged.
Rari explained that as trade union leaders they were supposed to meet with Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) officials on June 3 to kick start negotiations but DPSM requested a postponement as they wanted to engage in internal consultations first and to seek mandate from their superiors. “We then agreed to the postponement and both parties agreed that negotiations should resume on June 25. On that date when we arrived at DPSM offices, we were shocked when they informed us that their internal consultations have not been completed,” he pointed out.
The six trade unions then wrote a letter to DPSM requesting them to set a date convenient for them to resume negotiations. In response DPSM set July 10 but the date has since passed without any progress, Rari said.
He stated that they have now come to the conclusion that government does not want to come to the party as they have learnt that the convener of salary negotiations will not be available until July 27, which is seen as another delaying tactic used by the employer.