BOFEPUSU moves to block 3% salary hike
By Aubrey Lute
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.
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President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”