Teachers have suspended their participation in overtime activities at schools pending ongoing nationwide consultations with their unions regarding overtime allowance.
The consultations are scheduled towards the end of January and will focus on reviewing participation by teachers on working overtime – both after hours and during rest days and corresponding remuneration with particular reference to participating in sporting activities.
It is not the first time teachers reach a dispute with the employer concerning payments and hours of work to their otherwise peculiar profession.
The recent dispute came into play following the employer, the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM)’s alleged breach of the agreement that was harmonised in 2012 by altering the overtime conditions as provided for in the Public Service Act and the Employment Act.
DPSM and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) have subsequent to the agreement authored various savingrams that are seen by teachers as not only offensive to the provisions of the labour statutes regulating overtime but also meant to deliberately exploit teachers.
“The DPSM specifically authored a circular savingram referenced DP19/72VI (68) which was followed by a subsequent one from Permanent Secretary, MoE&SD referenced E3/2/21(116) which all purported that employees are required by law (could be forced) to work overtime and should be paid by days off, which in our view was a deliberate distortion of the statutes regulating overtime,” BOSETU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told WeekendPost.
He said the Ministry of Education through Regional Directors has also on several occasions issued various instructions both verbal and written varying and altering the overtime conditions as provided for in the labour statutes, and during the process subjecting teachers to debilitating working conditions.
Of particular reference, according to Rari, is the instruction issued at various Regional Offices requiring teachers to work overtime and be compensated by taking 50% of the days worked as day offs, and another 50% to be compensated in monetary form. This is despite the fact that in line with MoESD, days off can only be taken during school holidays.
“This took away the right of employees as provided for in the statutes to decide on how they should be compensated in case they have to work overtime,” Rari contended.
Rari asserted that they have many incidences where the Ministry of Education has flatly refused to pay teachers after having been lawfully authorised and procedurally rendered service after normal hours and on rest days. “We are alive to the fact that some authorised overtime has been returned to schools unpaid across regions.”
He also noted that: “the cited transgressions of the then understanding of the labour statutes warrant a review of our participation as teachers on working overtime both after hours and during rest days.”
Prior to the implementation of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008, teachers then regulated by the repealed Teaching Service Act (TSA) worked very long hours without regard to international standards on hours of work.
With the implementation of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008, the hours of work for the whole of the Public Service were standardized in compliance with the international standards, that is, maximum of 8 working hours per day.
During the transitional negotiations for a smooth change over to the new dispensation in 2010, trade unions raised the issue of the peculiarity of the teaching profession on hours of work and suggested a 10 hour working week which would translate to a 26 day month for teachers.
Rari explained that the employer (DPSM) then requested for more time to study the proposal and also come up with their own. While other issues were resolved, this issue, leave versus vacation, non-teaching duties, just to mention a few remained outstanding, he added.
At subsequent meetings, the Secretary General explained – the employer remained reluctant to adopt the 10 hour working week / 26 day month as suggested by unions but could not provide a solution to the impasse. In fact he said as from the engagement of the sectoral bargaining unit this issue has been with cabinet as from 2010.
“At the beginning of 2011 teacher unions conducted nation- wide consultation with teachers on this matter and teachers resolved that they would stick to the 8 hour working duration per day from 0730hrs – 1630hrs and would not work beyond these times including on rest days.”
He noted that this brought sporting and some other academic activities done after hours and during weekends (rest days) to a halt. “We saw 2011 and part of 2012 going without sporting activities. These also included perniciously the subject enrichment activities e.g.: subject fairs, remedial teachings etc.”
It is understood that in 2012 the Ministry of Education through Permanent Secretary Mrs. Grace Muzila opened dialogue once more with teacher unions regarding the impasse (non – participation of teachers in sporting and non-teaching activities).
It was agreed at these consultations that a joint (unions and MoESD) consultation process with teachers be conducted regarding the application of overtime to teachers as per provisions of the labour statutes (Employment Act).
Following the consultation process it was agreed between teacher unions and MoESD that teachers could work overtime including during rest days and the overtime would be regulated by the provisions of the Public Service Act & the Employment Act.
Back then teachers resumed providing service after normal hours and during rest days as per authorization by supervisors hence the commencement of sporting and educational enrichment activities.
However WeekendPost understands that the impasse to halt overtime activities in schools has again come back to haunt the ministry (MoESD) while students are likely to suffer most as they are always the victims due to these disagreements between teachers/unions and the ministry.
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.