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Unitrans accused of breach of wage agreement

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  • The company has illegally deducted a total of P9 million from workers’ salaries since July 2015-claim
  • BOTAWU want court to stop the deductions

TSHIAMO TABANE

Botswana Transport & Allied Workers Union (BOTAWU) has taken Unitrans Botswana Pty Ltd to court for breach of wage agreement for around 300 employees in Botswana.
Unitrans Botswana, a fuel and freight transportation company, operating as a subsidiary of the UK based Unitrans Group has deducted a total of P9 million from drivers’ salaries since July 2015, according to Sikhakhane Attorneys.
The law firm representing BOTAWU, last week dragged Unitrans Botswana before Gaborone High Court to answer for the deductions.
It has emerged that Unitrans and BOTAWU have an agreement indicating that Unitrans drivers should be given P2, 500 monthly each, as a subsistence allowance to cover costs related to food, water and toiletry when they are on duty outside their work station. Sikhakhane Attorneys has indicated that contrary to the agreement, Unitrans last year started claiming that the P2, 500 is a loan and should be deducted from workers salaries. The law firm believes that Unitrans decision to deduct the money from workers’ salaries amounts to breach of wage agreement and has applied for court order to stop the company from enforcing the deductions. The law firm also wants Unitrans to repay around P9 million which has been deducted from the drivers’ salaries since July last year. “We are trying to get a court interdiction to stop the deductions and order to compel Unitrans to repay money which has been deducted from the workers’ salaries. We believe that the deductions are illegal,” Sikhakhane Attorneys lawyer Victor Sikwila confirmed.
In an interview with this publication, BOTAWU Board Chairperson Kgomotso Panye noted that according to Section 71 of employment act, deducting somebody’s salary without his/her permission is crime.  “We have tried to make Unitrans aware but the company refused to stop the deductions. All drivers in the company cannot get loans from financial institutions because the drivers’ pay slips reflect that the employees are still repaying loans.”
Unitrans Human Resources Director Moses Sebolai has admitted that the drivers are on monthly basis credited P2, 500 as subsistence allowance and noted that the drivers should spend the money only when they are duty away from work stations. He argued that in a case where the employee was not instructed to perform any duty outside the work station and realized that he spent the money, the company has the right to deduct its money from the worker’s salary. “The deductions in workers’ salaries are legal and as Unitrans Botswana we are ready to defend our position at court,” he said adamantly.
Gaborone High Court Judge Walia is yet to set trial dates for the case.

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