Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has filed an application with the High Court seeking a review and setting aside of the decision taken by Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to unilaterally increase the salaries of public officers employed in terms of the Public Service Act by 3 percent prior to the conclusion of wage negotiations.
In stating grounds for review Rari writes that the decision to unilaterally increase salaries is a breach of the Government’s duty to bargain in good faith at the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). He further argues that implementing an increment in respect of non-unionised employees of Government (comprising both managerial and non-management employees) undermines and violates the legislative role of the PSBC.
“Government as an employer and as a member of the PSBC therefore has a duty in terms of the law to conduct itself in good faith as regards conditions of service, which conditions of service must be deliberated upon and discussed at the Council. Salaries as an integral component of employment must be deliberated and discussed at the Council,” he states.
Rari says he is advised that the unilateral decision taken by government is a classic form of bad faith bargaining. The employer party cannot resort to unilateral action as this makes nonsense of the entire bargaining process, says Rari. He says this remains the case whether or not negotiations are on-going at the PSBC.
“The Applicant trade unions are members of the PSBC and this means that the government owes them as members a duty to bargain with them in good faith.” Rari further posits that the decision to unilaterally increase salaries makes nonsense of the usefulness and relevance of Applicant trade unions to the entire bargaining process.
“It certainly gives the impression to the Applicant’s members that they are better off not being members of the Applicants and that they can get better conditions of service without the Applicants (BOFEPUSU)” .
Rari says the PSBC has the sole responsibility of determining terms and conditions in the public service, “and this is especially so because it is registered as a joint industrial council which by definition negotiates terms and conditions of employment for employees in the industry.”
He says in terms of the PSBC constitution, all members of the public service (except the disciplined forces) fall within its scope of reach. He states that it matters not whether or not the employee is unionised or non-unionised; all outcomes and resolutions at the Council affect the entire public service.
“Non-unionised employees will comprise both managerial and non-management employees as both managerial and non-management employees are all employees of the public service. The PSA does not exclude members of management from the scope of operation of the PSA. As long as the employee is governed by the PSA, such an employee is a member of the public service and falls within the scope of reach of the PSBC.”
BOFEPUSU says on 11th March 2016, government’s intention to implement salary increases for non-unionised public officers falling within the scope of the Council to the exclusion of other public officers, was brought to their attention by a source within government. Through their Attorneys on 14th March 2016 they sought a written undertaking that government will not unilaterally implement a salary increase for non-unionised public officers for the year 2016/17 until the lawfulness thereof had been established. Rari explains that government did not respond to the notice.
While Rari had been “reliably informed” that government had been advised that payroll system will be unable to differentiate between non-unionised employees and unionised employees for purposes of an increment which made him conclude that there would be no unilateral increment, he was shocked on 31 March 2016 when he received a Directive dated 30 March 2016 authored by DPSM, Ms Ruth Maphorisa, announcing a unilateral salary increment for all public officers, of 3 %.
Rari said the Directive shocked him because they have for the last several years negotiated salary increases through the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). “Last year we were able to achieve a 6 % increase following extensive negotiations,” he says in his affidavit.
Rari argues that the decision to proceed with a unilateral increment is undoubtedly a breach of the duty to bargain in good faith. He states that government ought to have returned to the PSBC following the noting of appeal. “Even if one assumes that the PSBC was dysfunctional, its dysfunctionality or non-existence did not negate government’s obligations to bargain at the workplace on an individual basis with the unions that fall under BOFEPUSU,” writes Rari.
According to BOFEPUSU secretary general, whether there is PSBC or not, their members will always have a right in law to bargain collectively for their members as long as they remain recognised and do not breach resolutions of the PSBC. “Any unilateral changes to the remuneration of public officers falling within the scope of the PSBC is thus unlawful,” he says.
PSBC was ready to start verification of members
Meanwhile the PSBC was ready to kickstart the membership verification process for recognised unions to prepare for salary negotiations. The General Secretary of the PSBC Mr Patla Ulaula had written to recognised unions in reference to the Court of Appeal ruling of 17th June 2016. He stated that the Council had been instructed to conduct a determination of union membership figures. He further wrote that they were still studying the judgement with the view to ensure that its contents are sufficiently internalised and effectively implemented.
Ulaula appreciated that the Court of Appeal has not specified any timeframe for the verification process, but he stated that it is a consuming and engaging process that requires more time and human resource efforts and there is need to be diligent and pay attention to detail. He also communicated that they will be done with their internal processes by around July 5th and should be in a position to invite unions to submit their packages by around July 8th.
But following the BOFEPUSU application before the court seeking a review of the decision to unilaterally implement a 3 percent salary increase, PSBC may be forced to revise its dates because the court process will also take a bit of time. Public servants will once again have to give the courts time to deal matters of law before actual bargaining starts.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.