Inspectors Find Poor Labour Relations At BCL

Gazette Reporter

A labour inspection report on BCL Mine, which is currently under liquidation, has exposed unfair labour practices by the mine’s managers The Botswana Gazette can reveal.

Among concerns raised by the report is that Sanek Trust Services, which took over the liquidation process from Nigel Dixon-Warren in July 2019, has not provided a clear working and organisational structure. BCL management has been asked questions about employee taxes and why it has kept more than 15 retirees employed. This report, which was released on 13 November 2020, is of inspections conducted by a team of senior labour inspectors from the 2 to 6 November 2020.

Workplace Committees
The employees and management informed the labour inspectors that no workplace committee is in existence. The labour inspectors advised on the importance of workplace committees. The agreement was that the management will facilitate formation of workplace committees by January 2021.

Shift allowances
The employees were concerned that the shift allowances were stopped and later paid but without arrears. As for some employees, it stopped and was never effected despite the fact their working schedules were similar to departments where shift allowances are paid. Some employees were of the view that they should be paid overtime when working shifts since their hours of work have increased from eight to 12 working four days and for resting four days. They were advised in line with Section 97 of the Employment Act as follows:

(1) Notwithstanding section 95 (1), an employee engaged under this contract of employment in regular shift work may be required by his employer to work more than five consecutive hours without a period of rest, more than eight hours in any one day or more than 48 hours in any one week; but the average number of hours worked over any period of four weeks shall not exceed 48 per week.

Tax deductions – PAYE
The employees were complaining that they see tax deductions in their pay slips as PAYE though they earn below P3000 per month. The labour inspectors were informed that the tax deductions are due to overtime work, school fees and housing subsidies. However, the school fees and the housing subsidies do not appear in the employees’ pay slips.

Advice given by the labour inspectors was that all of the employees earnings that make them taxable should appear in their pay slips for transparency purposes. The agreement was that a solution will be sought by January 2021.

Organisational structure
The employees averred that they do not know the structure of their organisation, for example, who they report to.
The inspectors recommended that there should be a clear structure for all departments and divisions which clearly shows reporting lines within the company. It was noted that it is abnormal for an employee to report to an external consultant or party. A clear structure would avoid confusion and promote a conducive working environment.

The labour inspectors observed that there are 17 retirees at the mine while the company policy is retirement at the age of 60. Management was asked to clarify why they are keeping retirees while there are ex-employees who are younger in age. The response given was the retirees’ skills are needed. The inspectors concluded that this response was not satisfactory.
They recommended that the retirees should leave and ex-employees who previously worked for BCL should be engaged. This will assist with employment creation in Selebi-Phikwe

Fear in the mine
The employees expressed that they fear to air their views because they do not want to lose their jobs. They informed the labour inspectors that they have a lot of issues but cannot express them even among themselves for fear of informants reporting them to their superiors. They said they do not trust one another. Managers also said there was lack of trust among themselves.

Management, on the other hand, told the labour inspectors that there is nothing to fear as they are open and have smooth working relations with the employees and themselves. This was a contradictory statement from managers as they had said there is no trust and transparency among themselves and that they do not have a clear organisational structure at their level.
Other areas of concern included insurance and pension funds, poorly maintained vehicles, salary increases and housing subsidies.