- BMC introduces alcohol testing machines at defunct depot
- Employees uncertain of future
- lack of staff consultations since operations stopped
FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown plant employees are accusing the management of surreptitiously seeking to dismiss them from jobs that are already in limbo, following the introduction of alcohol breathalyzers at the plant’s main entrance.
According to BMC employees who spoke to the Botswana Gazette, the breathalyzers were introduced without consultation with them and only after the plant ceased operations last year, raising suspicion that management of the parastatal was not being candid with its employees.
In 2017 government took a decision to shut down the BMC Francistown plant due to its failure to meet its throughput since 2006. Announcing the decision to shut down the Francistown plant, the Minister of Agriculture Food and Security Patrick Ralotsia revealed that the government took the decision because from its inception the Francistown BMC had been underperforming with the result that it over extended the Lobatse facility, “In essence BMC Francistown plant is consistently draining the Lobatse one. Besides that, the plans of Lobatse BMC ended up being derailed. The Act that established BMC states that it has to be run in an efficient and economic manner but since its inception it is the contrary. This failure by the facility to slaughter its target has now generated lots of debts which ended up negatively affecting Lobatse BMC as we are forced to borrow money for operations and even for staff salaries,” the Minister revealed.
The Minister disclosed that the decision to shut down the plant was not done in bad faith but that it was rather taken to cut high operational costs, “Since 2006 this plant has failed to reach its annual capacity of 85 000 cattle. In some instances, the plant even failed to reach weekly capacity hence making it difficult to be profitable. We tried to engage farmers this side but there is no improvement despite several promises. Therefore, there is no need to keep on running the plant at a loss.”
At the time Ralotsia stated that the employee’s jobs would be retained but the employees would be redeployed to the Maun and Lobatse plants. However, investigations reveal that following the shutting down of the Francistown plant the majority of its employees were transferred to Lobatse while approximately 40 remained, and still awaiting their fate.
Francistown plant employees who spoke to the Botswana Gazette this week revealed that since the plant stopped operations last year they have been left in limbo and fear for their job security as they are not being consulted on plants future. The employees claim that since the closure of the plant , management has not engaged them over what will happen to their positions. The remaining employees have also raised concern over the recent introduction of alcohol testing machines (breathalyzers) at the plant’s main entrance, that are meant to test them every day when they report for duty.
The employees are worried that this might be a trap to fire them, as, according to them, they were not consulted about the introduction of the machines, nor how they work, nor whether they are properly maintained. A spokesperson for the employees said they are worried that not only have they not been informed what the “limit” is but further that the readings of the machines may be subject to manipulation resulting in their dismissal if the readings reflect that they have consumed alcohol.
Expressing their suspicions, the employees stated that the introduction of the breathalyzer machines may be used to terminate their employment as their services are no longer needed, “What worries us the most is timing of the introduction of these breathalyzers. We wonder why they were introduced only after the shutting down of the plant operations. Some of us have worked here for decades but were never exposed to this kind of treatment. We wonder why these machines were only introduced now when we are not sure of our future at the plant. We suspect that this is only meant to trap us so that we can be cut from jobs,” lamented some of the remaining staff of the BMC Francistown plant.
Since the plants closure employees say that they do not have anything to do at the plant. “Since last year we have nothing to do at the plant. We only report for duty at 7:30 am and around 9am we will be ordered to knock off and go home. We spend most of the time cleaning the plant surrounding. So, we no longer know if we are still needed because we have never been addressed about what will happen to our future but only to learn that some of us might be transferred to Lobatse or Maun plant,” aggrieved employees added.
The introduction of the breathalyzers at the entrance of the plant has caused some of the employees to refuse to enter the premises until the machines purpose is properly explained. Some of the remaining employees have opted to remain outside in order to avoid being tested for alcohol. “To avoid the breathalyzers some of the employees have opted to remain outside the gate where they gather every day. This is a cause for concern because we are afraid that these breathalyzers are only meant to trap us. Our suspicion is that they are hoping that since we are doing nothing at the plant maybe one of us could report for work drunk, then they will use this as a reason to fire us, consequently downsizing our number,” stated one of the employees.
At the time of going to press BMC Spokesperson Portia Motlhabane was yet to respond to the questionnaire she requested concerning the concerns raised by the employees.