Business as usual as BURS strike continues

Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) Head of Communications, Refilwe Moonwa said on Monday that even though some parts of business at their offices are operating at a slow pace, they will continue providing service during operating hours to members of the public despite the ongoing industrial action (strike) by Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) members.

She said while BOPEU has stated that the strike is indefinite, they are still in discussion with the union as well as government to pave the way forward. “We have over 700 staff members who are members of BOPEU but it is not all who are participating in the strike. We would like to assure our customers and the public that we are still operating during our usual hours. Anyone who needs our services will be assisted as usual and we shall continue to serve them to the best of our ability. Business cannot stop  because it is important that we carry on business as usual. However, it has been a bit slow in other areas where a lot of people are participating in the strike but we will try our best to assist. On Friday,  two of our border posts, Maitengwe and Matsilotje are the most affected. We had reports that Ramatlabama border was also slow but we have some people working there. Things improved during the weekend but today (Monday) as the strike continues there are less people at the border post so we are working to normalize things,” she said.

BOPEU Regional Chaiperson, Tlotlang Bakoko said on Monday that as planned, Monday and Tuesday will be total labour withdrawal, then a ‘go slow’ will follow from Wednesday to Friday for 14 days. “We have seen an increase of people joining the strike as compared to last Friday. Entry points have been affected the most because they do not have as many staff as places like the head office where there are a lot of other staff members still working. According to the dispute acts, the strike should run for 14 days before the employer can replace its employees, so what we are doing is withdrawing labour completely for two days in a week to stretch out 14 days,” he said.

According to a press statement from BOPEU, the strike follows failure by BURS to reach an agreement on the adjustment of salaries and allowances for employees for the financial year 2015/2016. The statement read in part that, “during the negotiations BURS had maintained that it could only offer six percent adjustment since such was the increment which the government had granted to its civil servants for the same financial year 2015/2016. For its part, BOPEU opened the negotiations at 15 percent and ultimately went down to 13 percent and then 11 percent adjustment. BURS never moved once during the entire negotiation process.”

Batswana fear that the strike will give way for illicit substances such as drugs and unregistered guns to easily find their way through the border posts as some officials at the border gates are also on strike.