Unions Demand Tax Relief

Unions have presented a wide ranging position paper to government in which they demand a full account of Covid-19 prepadness,want guarantees of no job losses, demand protection from Covid-19 fallout for businesses, and condemn reported forced leave at certain government departments. Staff Writer LETLHOGILE MPUANG reports.

Trade unions are demanding a full briefing by government on the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus (Covid-19), assurances that workers and businesses will be protected against any fallout from the pandemic, as well as a rescheduling of loan repayments and a tax holiday for individuals and businesses, The Botswana Gazette has established.

The Botswana Gazette is possesion of a position paper that was submitted to cabinet on 26 March 2020 by two of the country’s biggest union federations, the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions ((BFTU) and the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU).

“We call on the Minister of Health and Wellness to also provide a comprehensive report on the country’s preparedness in dealing with (the) outbreak,” the unions say their position paper that is titled “Impact of Coronavirus Covid-19: Labour Movement Proposals.”

They want the government to “disclose information relating to suggestions of interventions that would be adequate for implementation to protect workers and businesses during the pandemic. These should be shared to enable social partners to dialogue and amicably agree on the best measures for implementation”.

They call establishement of a National Dialogue Council to eliminate or reduce social tensions and disruptions during this time of tackling the pandemic. The unions call on government to see that employers in both the public and private sectors devise special working conditions that include continuous hours, video conferencing, video calls and modification of work schedules and shifts, among others.

“Government must issue a directive for land lords, especially commercial land lords, to give tenants a six (6) month free lease period; ensure paid sick leave for those in isolation, especially in the private sector; ensure employment protection for those in self-isolation or quarantine provision of income support for housing, food and water for all workers,” the document reads.
They point to a need for temporary relaxation in repayment of loans in order to factor in anticipated cash flow challenges.

“Delay of tax payment: Enforcement measures or late payment of taxes should be allowed until December 31, 2020 as long as the debtor of a tax payment due is directly affected by the effects of the coronavirus,” says the paper.

“Government must put in place measures to protect the general public from excessive price escalations for the next six months. This is essential to guard against service providers and retailers over pricing commodities, as well as much needed services.”

Meanwhile, in a move that enjoys wider support across the labour movement, certain government departments have been condemned for compelling employees to go on paid leave while other departments are criticised for denying their employees leave.

“The unions regard these as forced leaves that by law are not allowed or could only be arrived at after a negotiation process because of extraordinary circumstances,” they wrote in a statement that is to be amplified to members by secretary generals of the unions.

“In this case, no such negotiation process has been entered into and as such is illegal to force people to go on leave. This issue was agreed upon by the parties and DPSM promised to provide guidance to departments on it and would further request those departments that have put up such ultimatums to retract them.”

In addition to BOFEPUSU and BFTU, the unions invested in the statement are BTU, BOSETU, BOPEU, BLLAHWU, BONU and Amalgamated (the National Amalgamated Local, Central Govermnet and Parastatal Workers Union).