- Some continue to retrench employees during SoPE
- Security companies top list of renegade employers
- Some directors have disappeared without paying employees
Government is to begin action against companies that have allegedly been violating regulations of the State of Public Emergency (SoPE), the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mpho Balopi has revealed.
Balopi has confirmed that the ministry has concluded a report, which is mostly filled with complaints and concerns of employees against their employers since the declaration of the SoPE by President Mokgweetsi Masisi in April.
“Government made it very clear that there shall be no retrenchments as a result of COVID-19 (and) during this period of State of Emergency,” said the minister. “We did state that the Employment Act has not been suspended.”
Balopi, who is also the MP for Gaborone North, noted that due to interruption caused by the SoPE and the lockdown, government had created to a wage subsidy scheme to assist all affected companies. These subsidies ranged between P1000 and P2500.
“Government did cite from the beginning that there were certain essential services,” he said. “Food outlets and security companies were among those that were never closed. However, we have realized that much as that was the case, some of these companies, especially security companies, decided to get rid of their staff or cut their wages. Some of these security companies are those that have been engaged by government and parastatals. Government has not reduced these companies’ dues at any point during this period.”
Minister Balopi said some companies were required to provide services such as transport for their staff members but did not do so. “These companies just decided to do what they want,” he said. “A salary is not a privilege but is a right if you are an employee.
“If a company is not able to pay its employees, they should sit down with them and satisfy them as to why they are not able to pay them their full salaries and the employees have to be convinced such that they agree. It has to be an agreement reached by the two parties. All these are under the Employment Act which we have not suspended.”
Minister Balopi noted that some companies had claimed wage subsidies and paid them to the employees as if the subsidies were their salaries. “Remember (that) this is only a subsidy to help companies through the consequences of COVID-19,” Balopi pointed out. “We do have such kinds of cases where people were paid only 50 percent from the government, which is wrong. It is against the Employment Act.”
According to the minister, some company directors disappeared without paying their employees.
“Employees have reported all these matters to us,” Balopi said. “We will soon be engaging directly with these companies. Some companies have come forward and tried to correct some of these concerns. We are working 24/7 to ensure that the interests of workers are protected. We have also engaged the tripartite Business through Business Botswana and the federations.”
“We have all agreed that we will not allow workers to be exploited. We need to ensure that the law prevails. We are going to take action as per the law for companies who have not complied. I will make a proposition to government that once this thing is over, we have an undertaking that only companies that have that have complied be the ones engaged by government.”