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Unions push Gov’t on salary increase

Government’s insistence on a 3% salary hike riled representatives from the seven recognised public sector unions this week. The representatives who were hoping for a better increment left the Ministry of Health and Wellness headquarters disappointed after they failed to convince the Directorate on Public Service Management to offer an improved rise in pay.

The negotiations which began last week are no different from the ordinary employer-union talks and have all the hallmarks of turning into marathon negotiations. By close of business yesterday (Friday) the unions had directed DPSM director, Ruth Maphorisa and company “to engage their principals further on the matter and expect a ‘tangible’ answer by next Thursday (March 1st)”.

The recognized unions which attended the meeting are Trained and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions’ (BOFEPUSU) constituents.

This week’s meeting followed another from last week, and it was expected that after this one, the negotiations would be concluded. “The Union party submitted that it accepts the principle of salary increase, but that should not prejudice their labour rights as per their collective labour agreements. The house did not finish its business and the next meeting is scheduled for 20th February 2018. “We remain hopeful that such a meeting will bear desirable fruits,” Mogomotsi Motshegwa, BOFEPUSU Acting Secretary General had said after the first meeting.

According to sources who attended the two meetings the government is unwavering on its decision to offer only 3% as increment for public servants. “They are proposing 3% but looking at the current inflation we believe the percentage should be reasonable to meet the current cost of living in our society,” a source told this publication in an interview.

This week Motshegwa was tight lipped and could not confirm the development. “We are still going to meet with the employer next week and that is when I will be able to share more. But for now the proposed percentage from government is low.”
Meanwhile BOPEU’s Topias Marenga could also not divulge any information as he insisted that discussing the developments prior to next week’s meeting could compromise the ongoing talks.

Elsewhere sources say trade unions caucus and representation has reached a consensus of a 12% increase which averages 6.6% for public servants across board as they believe the government proposed percentage has been overtaken by events. “They gave us their proposal which we rejected because it is too little but they insisted on it saying there are no funds but we directed them to engage their principals further,” another source said. The unions want this to be averaged to 6.6% but the DPSM director flanked by her juniors would not let the unions have their way.

“I am not sure whether I can share with you because when we left we had not agreed anything concrete,” DPSM director Maphorisa said. She added further: “But it is true that we are still engaging each other and we have put before them our proposal and they have theirs but we are yet to agree on anything. We have a number of issues including the salary adjustment as the main and we are aware of the current ongoing consultancy on the remuneration.” Maphorisa said she was however optimistic that the meeting set for next week would be the last in deciding the increment figure.

OVERTIME IMPASSE

Although salary increment was the main issue at the ongoing negotiations another hot potato issue which came up was overtime payment. According to sources, government, which has disclosed before that it planned on reducing overtime and scarce skills allowances, proposed an across board P500 as the standard payment for overtime.

Maphorisa confirmed that the meeting also discussed overtime payment but declined to expound on what was discussed. “Yes the overtime issue is one of those we are negotiating on and unfortunately I cannot share anything regarding that,” Maphorisa said.

For his part, Motshegwa said that he believed that overtime payment should never standardised. “From our side we believe it should not be standard as it will be a total exploitation and our argument is that overtime should vary according to the nature of the job. Right now you cannot be paying teachers doing extra-curricular activities like sports the same as someone whom their job is not demanding like that of a teacher,” Motshegwa said.

“A task team has been set to look at where we mostly spend much on overtime and how can we curb that and we do understand where the employer is coming from regarding overtime issue,” Marenga said. However the deliberations on the matter together with others bordering on conditions of services are expected to be influenced by the recommendations from the two consulting companies (PEMANDU engaged by DPSM and TSA BADIRI by BOFEPUSU) which are expected on the 1st of April.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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