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Gov’t refuses to Bargain – BOFEPUSU

The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has accused Government of refusing to go back to the bargaining table following a series of court battles.


On the other hand Government and the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has accused, at court, the BOFEPUSU A.J.A of having not complied with Constitution of Public Service Bargaining Council (P.S.B.C) by not submitting membership numbers. As a result of the alleged non-compliance Government is also refusing to BOFEPUSU’s decision to accept a 3% salary increase offered by the employer last year – at salary negotiations for 2016/17.


At last week’s PSBC meeting BOFEPUSU had indicated that they have complied with Constitution of P.S.B.C as they have submitted the requested membership names, and such evidence was consequently produced. Despite BOFEPUSU’s arguments the Employer party declined to continue with the negotiations indicating that there must be a specific item on the agenda discussing the matter of non-compliance.


Explaining how his Federation has attempted to bring normalcy to the bargaining process, BOFEPUSU deputy secretary general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa wrote: “In return for purpose of settling issues, progress at Bargaining Council, stability in civil service, BOFEPUSU wrote to Bargaining Council Secretary General and the Employer that there be a meeting to deal with the said allegations, a meeting at which BOFEPUSU will indicate clearly that they have complied.

 

This BOFEPUSU did to heed to the concerns and demands of Government. Surprisingly and shockingly now Government is refusing to go back to the Council for purpose of that meeting and item, and they are now saying the Permanent Secretaries and Directors who represent them at Council are busy. This is not truthful because Government representatives at Council are eight (8) and each have an alternative to attend when the substantive is not around. It is clear that Government does not want Bargaining Council to function, does not want negotiations and Collective Bargaining in Botswana. Government have many permanent secretaries and Directors to represent her.”


He said BOFEPUSU will announce a way forward on Monday should government hold on to its hard line stance of refusing to come to the bargaining table. “We encourage workers to remain strong and courageous because we are in the final stages of claiming the so much fought for victory,” he added. Meanwhile judgement has been reserved in a matter of where the Botswana Public Sector Union (BOPEU) had asked the Court of Appeal for a Stay of Execution of the Motswagole J judgement, ruling has been reserved following passionate submissions from representatives of the two parties, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) was represented by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president, Advocate Duma Boko while BOPEU was represented by Martin Dingake.

 

BOFEPUSU says it is protecting the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and the recognised bargaining process while BOPEU says it wants to protect the salaries of civil servants who were awarded 3 percent last year. According to Motshegwa, the motive and consequences of application of BOPEU and Government is destruction of Bargaining Council and giving Government absolute power over workers and rendering Trade Unions irrelevant. He said this is a great attack on Industrial Democracy and human rights.


HOW THE PARTIES GOT HERE


In October 2015, the Trade Union party BOFEPUSU A.J.A tabled a proposal of 13.5 % for purposes of 2016/17 salary negotiations. Government delayed to submit a counter proposal to Trade Union Party’s proposal. In April 2015, Government made a unilateral salary increment of 3 % outside the P.S.B.C. and the increment only awarded to non-unionised public servants. This brought sharp and deep divisions within the civil service.


The Trade Union party, BOFEPUSU approached High Court in an endeavour to protect the role and integrity of the P.S.B.C to ensure that it's functionality is entrenched. This was a path of principle to protect the Collective Bargaining power of workers, protect Trade Unions and Workers Rights. On the 2nd November 2016 Government tabled a 3 % proposal as counter proposal to the Trade Union party proposal for negotiations of 2016/17.


The meeting of 2016/17 salary negotiations started on the 8th November 2016, and adjourned when Government pulled out of the Bargaining Council indicating that they will not continue with negotiations when the scope of Bargaining Council is pending at Court. The Trade Unions tried without success to reason with Government representatives that the pending case does not imply stoppage of salary negotiations. Government representatives insisted on their rigid position and the negotiations stopped.


Judgment on the scope of Bargaining Council was delivered on 4th April 2017 where the Court declared the scope of Bargaining Council as that of all Public Servants and further setting aside the 3 % and 4% unilateral salary increment by Government which had violated the P.S.B.C. and Public Service Act. The Trade Union party wrote to the Chairperson of P.S.B.C requesting for convening of a continuation meeting of salary negotiations. The meeting was scheduled and subsequently held today 18th April 2017.


Motshegwa indicated that the Trade Union party pointed out that in the best interests of harmonious labour relations, peace and stability of the Country they would like to compromise and accept the 3% percent offer made by the employer.
“The employer then refused saying they don't agree that Trade Unions should accept the employer’s offer and they pulled out of the Bargaining Council.

 

The employer motivated a position held by BOPEU that BOFEPUSU should not be in the Bargaining Council, a position BOPEU lost at Court in Francistown. This is clearly indicative of acts of collusion between BOPEU and Government. Prior to the negotiations meeting, BOPEU had indicated that negotiations will not proceed, and at Bargaining Council Government representatives behaved the way BOPEU had stated,” he said.


 “The Minister of Presidential Affairs Eric Molale, Permanent Secretary to President Carter Morupisi have dismally failed the Public Service, have drastically failed the Nation and they are responsible for low productivity and division in the public service . They are great architects of instability in the Country due to their lack of leadership where they are required to provide it. In this scheming the D.P.S.M and Attorney General has been side-lined to the extent that now Government is using BOPEU lawyers and side-lining its own Attorney General. That means Government is paying twice, paying its own attorneys at Attorney General who are just spectators in these cases and paying BOPEU lawyers for service rendered to Government on consultancy.

 

It is clear that Government is trying to save BOPEU at the expense of the whole civil service and Trade Unions in Botswana. The question then is what has made BOPEU leadership and Minister of Presidential and P.S.P to unite towards destroying the civil service,” wrote Motshegwa in one of his posts on social media.


Motshegwa is of the view that BOFEPUSU has done all within its power to be reasonable, patriotic by compromising in the best interests of unity of civil service and stability of the Country. He called on Cabinet, BDP MPs, Councillors, structures to rise up as they are the ones in Government. He said if they (BDP) are not careful, the top civil servants who get paid even when they create this mess will cost them as a party and politicians because it is now clear in the eyes that ours is a stubborn, ruthless and unrepentant Government.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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