Tensions mount between unions and Government
Botswana Federation of PublicSector Unions (BOFEPUSU)Secretary GeneralTobokani Rari said the governmenthas stretched their patience to itselasticity. Rari said their feeling isthat the government is deliberatelyfrustrating the efforts of the bargainingcouncil.Speaking to The Gazette in anexclusive interview recently, Raristated that the government does notwant the bargaining council to beoperational by not doing what wasagreed on.The union has therefore declareda dispute to the Commissioner ofLabour.
The possible outcomes ofthis move could be court action,arbitration or in the worst case scenarioindustrial action in the formof a strike similar to the public sectorstrike which brought the countryto its knees in 2011.They havea strong feeling that the directorof the Directorate of Public ServiceManagement (DPSM), CarterMorupisi interferes with the runningof the council. “The councilshould be independent. We agreedas the council that this year’s negotiationswill be chaired by anindependent facilitator.
The unionsand the government believed thatit would not be fair if thefacilitatoris from either the governmentor the trade unions’ side. We weresurprised that Morupisi said thatcannot happen even after his representativein the bargaining councilagreed to that. Weare disappointedthat after adecisionwas made Morupisi chose toreverse it. To us it is a clear signof interference,” said Rari.He said that theyare disappointedthatthe bargainingcouncil isnot goingsmoothlyas they wouldhave expected.Rari said theproblemis thatthegovernmentside ismade upof the deputy permanent secretariesand directors who all the timeclaim to be engaged with othergovernment activities.“Both the government and thetrade unions are expected to fi eldeight members who are the representativesat the council. Eachof the substantive members musthave an alternate.
It was done forthe purpose that the activities ofthe bargaining council shouldn’t beheld back just because one memberis not in attendance. The alternateswere meant to step in, in thatcase. Government has since failedto provide the alternate. They providedonly eight representatives.To make matters worse, last yearone of them dropped out. And nowthere are only seven members fromtheir side while the Unions havethe required eight and all the alternates,”he said.The unions also declared anotherdispute because government oftentime does not honour the bargainingcouncil meetings.
“For themnot to honour the meetings is adeliberate move. This attitude hasbeen continuing and we had nochoice but to declare a dispute atlabour. We declared a dispute thatthe government is failing to bringthe alternates. We tried our levelbest to persuade them to bring thealternates but they are still failingto do so. The dispute is before labourmediator on the 26th (July),”he said.Failure to provide alternates bygovernment has led to them notmeeting the quorum, hence failingthe proceedings of the council.“This has held back the activities ofthe council. It is a major problem,”Rari said.The government and the tradeunions were expected to bargainfor salary negotiations on June 24thbut the government side did notshow up for the meeting.
“We triedto contact the Deputy Chairpersonon the side of the governmentand he said that they were held uptherefore they could not be able tobargain. We were worried that wedid not meet. We wrote them a letterto say we wanted yet anotherdate to meet, only for us to meetlast weekend of which we neveragreed on the dates to start salarynegotiations,” he said.Contacted for comment, Morupisisaid he could not comment onthe matter as he had been on leaveand was just arriving in offi ce.