BOPEU sues Statistics Botswana

SHARE   |   Sunday, 29 March 2015   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Matambo Matambo PIC: Omang Kilano

• Statistics Botswana broke
• Overtime payment cancelled
• SB retrenches 52 employees
• Majelantle in contempt of court - union


Management of Statistics Botswana (SB) on Friday ignored litigation threats and proceeded to open bids for tenders that will lead to 52 members of staff being retrenched on Tuesday when their contracts expire.
The union representing the workers Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) had last week tried to stop SB management from going ahead with the tender as the latter had failed to present the issue for bargaining. BOPEU argues that, as a recognised trade union, SB is obliged to negotiate and or consult in matters relating to the workplace benefits, policies, appointment, terms and conditions and other matters incidental thereto in terms of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act and the Trade Disputes Act. The union, through their lawyer Otto Itumeleng accused management of conducting a farce interview within some cadres to cloud the justification for failure to renew contracts. They said SB was fully aware that the positions were made redundant due to the envisaged unlawful outsourcing exercise. The union said should the invitation to tender not be withdrawn they would file an urgent application to reverse the process.
In an earlier court order delivered on March 09, 2015 by the Industrial Court SB and its chief executive Annah Majelantle were interdicted, restrained and prohibited from carrying out and/or proceeding with the implementation of a November 17, 2014 memo cancelling overtime payments. SB was further prohibited from continuing to issue staff circulars and/or any correspondence unilaterally amending or varying terms and conditions of service.
On Friday SB opened bids from companies for the cleaning services at the head office and Francistown regional office. As tenderpreneurs struggled to conceal excitement watching their bids opened on the ground floor of Finance House some switchboard operators, handymen and messenger/drivers walked by with heads held low knowing it is their one but last day before they are thrown into the streets. A total of 52 staff members from these cadres will cease to be employees of SB when their contracts expire on Tuesday. Some officers will start driving company vehicles on official duty.  
Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, under whose portfolio SB falls, is not concerned by the job losses at the parastatal. He told Parliament on Thursday that the decision to outsource non-core services was taken as a way of enhancing organisational efficiency and growing the private sector.
Matambo said during the transition from Central Statistics office several meetings were held where staff members were informed that their engagement at SB will be on short contracts which will lapse in three years. "They were then given an option to remain in government where they would be deployed to other ministries and departments. So they were consulted and knew that their engagement was temporary," he said. However, a source at SB said Matambo did not tell Parliament the truth and cannot produce evidence to that effect. She said nothing was communicated to staff that they will be terminated after three years, but rather an impression was created that their contracts would be renewable.
On Thursday Matambo stood his ground resisting pressure from opposition MPs who accused the BDP government of not caring about job losses in different sectors of the economy. He said government cannot be pressured to conduct a survey due to a spate of job losses within and outside government as these are done periodically as scheduled. Umbrella for Democratic Change MP for Gantsi North Noah Salakae had called on government to investigate the job losses and their implications on the unemployment statistics for Botswana. Latest statistics indicate that unemployment in Botswana currently stands at approximately 20 per cent. "Who knows, it could be that more people are gaining employment compared to those being retrenched elsewhere," said Matambo.
Despite allegations to the contrary Matambo denies that SB is broke. Late last year on November 17 Human Resources and Administration Manager at SB Jabulani Dick reminded staff about a tight budget implementation and management decision as the "financial position of the organisation has not improved yet". "No overtime shall be authorised until further notice, save for employees assigned to projects and surveys which have a separate budget. Employees should therefore continue to earn time off in lieu for overtime worked including drivers," he said.
In defence of SB Matambo said: "With the current budgetary challenges all public enterprises are obliged to contain costs and ensure prudent use of available resources. Therefore operating within the given financial constraint or budget ceiling by any organisation should not be termed broke, but rather a prudent way of managing available resources.”
The financial statements of SB for the financial year ended 31 March 2014, audited by Grant Thornton, show a surplus of P6.13 million resulting from income of P84.59 million against expenditure of P78.46 million. Income included Government grants of P83.01 million, subventions from donors of P1.55 million, other income of P18 941 and finance income of P5 153; while expenditure comprised operating expenses of P13.51 million, employee costs of P58.55 million and travel expenses of P6.40 million.
The working capital position of SB showed currents assets of P37.00 million and current liabilities of P31.54 million, which resulted in a net current assets position of P5.46 million.

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