Embattled Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has lost with costs a case in which Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) dragged them to court for their refusal to allow their employees to unionise.
BMC had refused to recognise BOPEU saying some of the employees already belonged to another union, Botswana Meat Industries Union (BMIWU).
During the year long case, BMC through its lawyers, argued that as of January 2018 their staff compliment eligible for BOPEU membership was 1, 014.
The commission further insisted that only 365 employees were submitted by BOPEU as registered members, adding that 15 of those were no longer employed by them (BMC).
According to section (35) 4 of the Trade and Dispute Act, for BOPEU to be recognised it should have at least one-third of its members as eligible employees for unionisation, a requirement they argue they met.
BMC also called on the court to consider the interpretation of the section and decide on the meaning of the word ‘represent’ as used in the provisions.
In her judgment, High Court Judge, Jennifer Dube ruled, “I have taken into consideration all that the respondent (BMC) has submitted that the court ought to do in interpreting all relevant sections but I find it difficult to subscribe to the meaning contended by the respondent. In my view I do not think that the legislature could have intended that despite the number of members that the union has registered, only the ones not belonging to the other union should be represented by the union.”
Dube further poured water on BMC’s argument that the presence of more than one trade union at a bargaining meeting would lead to negotiations in bad faith.
“I completely do not agree with this ascertain. Without any evidence or example I can only conclude that the respondent is speculating. Unions, as well as employers, have a duty to act and negotiate in good faith,” reads the judgment.
Judge Dube further ruled that BOPEU had met the one-third threshold and thus BMC should recognise them.
“The respondent, by refusing to recognise the applicant as a bargaining entity, is violating the provision of Trade and Dispute Act as well as the Trade Union and Employers Act.”
Lawyers are yet to finalise the exact amount of costs incurred by BMC in the case.