A major pension row looming around ‘converted’ manual workers
by Calistus Bosaletswe
Thousands of industrial workers who are on the verge of their retirement age will be left in the lurch as the Directorate of Public Service Management converts some former industrial workers to permanent and pensionable employees.
This comes at a time when the DPSM is struggling to convert workers nearing retirement to permanent and pensionable employees to qualify as members of the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund.
The Botswana Public Officer Pension Fund has maintained that, for the employees who are nearing retirement age to qualify, they will have to come with a package from their previous employment for them to be taken on board.
The BPOPF decision to bring those who have packages from their previous employment could possibly complicate a decision that was taken by government to pay the employees their gratuities and allowances from their previous employment conditions.
DPSM Director, Carter Morupisi, indicated in an interview that some of the employees have remained as industrial workers when the conversion started.
Morupisi stated that some members, who are nearing retirement age, have after consultations opted to remain as industrial workers.
He admitted that some of the employees who are aged 50 years and above could not opt for conversion as it could not favour them to qualify as members of the BPOPF.
Morupisi differed with some employees who claimed that there was a certain amount of money that was deducted from their salaries last month that went towards their pension without their consultations.
He said that those who will be taken on board will join the BPOPF even if they are nearing retirement.
He noted that they will be allowed to take the bulk of their packages if their retirement has not reached the ceiling that requires BPOPF to remain with part of the package that will be paid to them on monthly basis.
He stated that if the amount of money has not reached the ceiling that requires BPOPF to keep the remaining amount when they retire they will be allowed to take the bulk of the money.
Morupisi maintained that most of the employees who have been already converted qualify for pension. He added that that the government will contribute 15 percent towards their pension while the employees contribute 5 percent.
Quizzed on why the government was reluctant to pay the employees after they were converted from industrial to permanent and pensionable status, he apologised for the delay of gratuities and allowances payments to employees.
“The money is there but the process is too slow. We are sourcing the money from different departments to pay the employees their gratuities and allowances. We concede that the process has been to slow,” added Morupisi.
The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BOFEPUSO) Labour Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, also emphasised that he was disappointed that the government had already started deducting money from employees which goes towards their pension. He said that BPOPF and Alexander Forbes had advised them that most of the employees could not qualify for pension because they were nearing retirement.
He wondered why the government was deducting the money from employees though it had been stated that they would not qualify for pension.
However, BPOPF Chief Executive Officer, Ephraim Letebele, stated that once the employees become permanent and pensionable, they become BPOPF members. He did not go into details pertaining the industrial workers who are nearing retirement who were converted to permanent and pensionable because he was not privy to the challenges that DPSM is facing.
He said that their assumption is that the employees who are nearing retirement will come with packages from their previous employment in order to qualify as members. He indicated that it might not serve a purpose for employees to become members when they are not taken on board with transfer value.
The government, through the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has indicated that in the last parliament session that out of 46 600 industrial workers countrywide, 34 400 have so far been converted.
Masisi also stated that the government paid the transferred workers over P275 million and has an outstanding bill of P338 million still to settle.