Some public sector trade unions have no intention to apply afresh for new recognition agreements with the government, despite being given up to end of July, 2019 to have done so.
The employer, Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), has given the trade unions an ultimatum to comply or face de-recognition.
So offended are the unions over the government’s call for them to process new recognition agreements that they have filed an urgent application to the high court contesting against the DPSM.
Secretary General for Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLHWU), Ketlhalefilwe Motshegwa, who doubles as Deputy Secretary General for Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Unions (BOFEPUSU) explained that, “the matter will be heard in court on Friday, this week.”
On Tuesday last week, DPSM’s director, Goitseone Naledi Mosalakatane wrote to all member unions of BOFEPUSU and reminded them that they need to have completed the recognition agreement by end of next July so that the resuscitation of public sector bargaining council can be achieved.
According to Mosalakatane, in order for the bargaining to begin, a constitution to regulate the council has to be put in place, but while it was being crafted, “DPSM received a written objection by one of the public service unions with respect to the involvement of another union.”
The objection reminded the directorate that the bargaining process can only be done by trade unions that are recognized in terms of the law, as provided for in section 46 of the Public Service Act.
On Friday,19th October, 2018), the unions responded to the government on the subject and made it clear that they have no intention of making any fresh recognition agreements.
The unions maintained that they have long complied. “We have previously informed the employer that trade unions have complied with procedures for recognition in the workplace as they have applied for Recognition Agreement pursuant to section 48 of Trade Unions and Employers Organisations and Section 35 of Trade Dispute Act.”
They further maintain that, such agreements were then adopted by the employer, DPSM, after commencement of the Public Service Act which indicated DPSM as the overall employer in public service.
“The question of application for fresh recognition agreement was dealt with by the courts in a matter of BLLAHWU and others versus DPSM before Judge Tshosa where the employer admitted that the trade unions in question were duly recognized. It is therefore surprising that the matter could crop up again on the same points dealt with before the court,” Motshegwa noted.
Nonetheless, after receiving correspondence from unions, DPSM went ahead and invited them to a meeting which was held yesterday (Tuesday) in Gaborone.
The meeting whose agenda was to continue with the process for resuscitation of the council collapsed because the government maintained that unions need to make fresh recognition agreements, hence the matter has been taken to court.
“DPSM has triggered an unfortunate happening as that is an attack on I.L.O (International labour organisation) convention 98, Protection of the Rights to Organise and Collective Bargaining, the lack of which will lead to ruin on Convention 89, Freedom of Association and Right to organize. These deeds indicate that the government is not prepared to improve on contaminated stance against the labour movement.”
The Public service Act came into effect in 2010, three years after the unions entered the recognition agreement with DPSM following the recognition of trade unions in the country.
However following eight years of bargaining, the bargaining council collapsed last year after the bargaining parties hit a stalemate.
BOFEPUSU then withdrew from the council. Government then, was blamed for bargaining in bad faith after the then President Ian Khama publicly declared a four percent salary increase for public service while negotiations were still ongoing.
In essence, as explained by Motshegwa, the effect of DPSM’s stance is that concerned unions would no longer enjoy organizational rights extended to recognized ones.
DPSM penned down the sad news to unions just a day before President Masisi swore in the president of the commission on salary review.
The commission will look into salaries, conditions of service and other entitlements for the President, Vice President, Speaker of the National Assembly, Chief Justice, Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, Ministers and Assistant Ministers, Leader of Opposition, MPs, Judges of the High Court and Councillors, among others.
It is expected to submit its report with recommendations by December 2018.