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Salary negotiations in another deadlock

Publishing Date : 22 November, 2016

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

The salary negotiations between government and Botswana Federation of Public and Private Sectors Union (BOFEPPUSU) have this week suffered another blow.


Weekend Post has established that the talks have reached a new deadlock hardly 2 weeks following the commencement of Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) proceedings. This comes after the union party tabled their proposal of a whopping 10.5% salary increment as well as improved conditions of service for their membership during the first sitting of the talks.


In return it is understood that government has flatly declined to counter the union proposal, sparking debates that they may be on agenda to delay the talks further with a purpose to render the PSBC irrelevant and consequently continue with unilateral increments.
Government has recently unilaterally increased public servants salaries by 3%, citing the union court battles as procrastinating. In the court battle, BOFEPPUSU was in dispute with Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) over who should sit or not sit in the PSBC. This happened subsequent to the BOPEU’s withdrawal from union federation affiliation.  


“Yes it is true that government party has this week stalled 2016/17 salary negotiations indicating that they have no mandate to continue with the salary negotiations and further they are refusing to respond to the Trade Union proposal of 2017/18 salary negotiations,” BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, told Weekend Post on Friday in an interview.


Motshegwa further lambasted the government representatives at PSBC highlighting that they are never productive. He said the government party aways go to the meeting without mandate, and “they would be continuously on the phone saying "they are calling bagolo". Motshegwa meant that they are calling “top” government officials or politburo.


“At the Bargaining Council, employer representatives are always unreasonable and frustrating the Bargaining Council. In fact they are dedicated to kill the Bargaining Council so that Government alone can unilaterally decide on conditions of service of workers,” the unionist expressed their frustrations.


At this moment, he further pointed out that there is low morale in the Public Service and there are poor conditions of service of workers, and in addition there is animosity and instability in the civil service stemming probably to the delayed talks.
The PSBC operates on a 50/50 representation from government and recognised public service trade unions (BOFEPUSU under acting jointly agreement). Government is currently represented by 8 and union party 8 as well. The PSBC was established by section 50 and 51 of the Public Service Act to negotiate between the employer and public service unions.  


Union put blame on BDP, Molale for dysfunctional PSBC
Union party has blamed the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric molale for interfering as well as influencing the government party in the PSBC.  


Motshegwa has stated that since Molale’s days as Permanent Secretary, later as Permanent Secretary to the President, he has always been and continue to be confrontational against Trade Unions and undermine social dialogue mechanism thereby undermining Freedom of Association and the right to Organise, as well as Collective Bargaining.


“The Bargaining Council continues to be disrespected, disregarded and Labour laws violated in the Public Service under the mentorship and influence of Minister Eric Molale,” the BOFEPPUSU leader pointed out.  
According to Motshegwa, they had written to Cabinet seeking to address it on matters of Public Service for dialogue is fundamental in preserving democracy, peace and prosperity.


“But we were however turned down by the Permanent Secretary To The President (PSP), Carter Morupisi, who wrote back saying that we should in turn meet Minister Molale as he is the one responsible for Public service. We wrote to Minister Molale based on Morupisi's correspondence and Minister Molale has since refused to meet leadership of BOFEPPUSU.”  


This, the unionist continued, “depicts arrogant and unaccountable leadership that has no place in modern democracy. It can then safely be interpreted that Minister Molale 's onslaught against Trade Unions is endorsed and condoned by the BDP, for they seem to have placed much trust on him despite his dismal failure in his portfolio.”


He said the BDP has responsibility to account for Minister Eric Molale’s continued bullying of Trade Unions and disregard of the Public Service Bargaining Council. “If Botswana Democratic Party does not whip Minister Molale into the line then his conduct and actions will surely cost them as they will attract many enemies not only within civil service,” he added.   


Gov’t parties in PSBC clueless about labour relations?
Motshegwa said that in year 2010 there were 1000 Permanent Secretaries and Directors and today there are 2000. He added that this is just a burden to the expenditure because still with many Permanent Secretaries and Directors productivity has gone down.
“It is people at this scales who get large slice of the wage bill. In yester years Permanent Secretaries were powerful and principled. They could stand their ground and objectively tender their advice to Government.”


According to BOFEPPUSU DSG there are confrontational and inexperienced Permanent Secretaries who are clueless about Labour relations and contemporary trends of workplace democracy and “these are the kind of robots like Permanent Secretaries and Directors who simply carry Minister Eric Molale’s instructions without even putting their own conscience.”  


Motshegwa maintained that Molale’s role in mandate giving to those who represent the Government at the Bargaining Council continue to spell bad for the Bargaining Council and the Country. He added that his influence and role in the Public Service has brought an era of bad relations between Trade Unions and Government and therefore negatively impacting on the democracy of the Country.


“Today,” he pointed out, “it is different as those appointed to such positions are not necessarily the best in the civil service due to an entrenched culture of nepotism that reward bootlicking and sycophancy.”  The selection process and promotion process, he said, is riddled with corrupt connotations.


“We have headship of civil service that is willing to carry instructions of political masters no matter how absurd and ill-advised they are.  This is the kind of crop of Permanent Secretaries and Directors who will severely cost the BDP with their popular vote.”
On his part, BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, defended BDP and refuted claims of interference in the works of PSBC as a political party.


“I think sometimes BDP is given unfair treatment. I sit in all key decision making meetings of the party and the PSBC has never been discussed,” Ntuane defended his party. He further insisted that, “the BDP does not participate in PSBC. It’s a forum for unionists and government officials and we are not privy to their deliberations.”

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