The Cresta Hotels management and its employees could be headed for another costly public showdown after the former ended talks with the union and halved the salary increment it initially offered.
The Executive Secretary of the Botswana Hotel, Travel and Tourism Workers Union (BHTTWU), Nicholas Motiki, says that he was notified on Friday through a letter from the managing director, Tawanda Makaya, that management had unilaterally awarded a five percent salary increase. The increment will be implemented this month while back payment from July 2010 will be paid in full next month. With negotiations having failed and management acting unilaterally, Motiki could not rule out the possibility of another strike. His information is that the hotel group lost some P2.5 million during last year’s strike. As the saga unravels, Tati East MP and the Botswana Movement for Democracy treasurer, Samson Guma Moyo, who helped broker a deal that ended the strike, has reached the conclusion that management is being ‘unreasonable’ and is ‘acting in bad faith’. The strike was a result of a pay dispute that intensified late last year. The union had asked for 13 percent but management could only go as high as 10 percent. The stalemate led to a strike action that only ended with Moyo’s mediation. The MP managed to persuade employees back to work on the understanding that negotiations would resume after a two-week ‘cooling-off period.’ Motiki says that when the negotiations resumed on December 15 last year, management effectively shut the door as it announced that it was ending talks and suggested the following options: a final offer of five percent increase across the board, referring the dispute for arbitration and an off-the-table settlement of between 0 and seven percent. The Union was given two days to respond and in its response, required to state its position and intentions. Once more Guma got involved.
The MP says that Elias Dewah, a Cresta board member and former Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower executive director, requested him to negotiate the union, which in the end agreed to an increase of 10.5 percent. The outcome was reported back to management which, according to Moyo, balked at the figure. Interestingly, in his letter to the Union, Makaya disavows knowledge of Dewah dealing with Moyo on behalf of the board. Makaya’s letter says that the Union’s letter of reply ‘chose to address some alleged discussions between one E. Dewah and S.G. Moyo.’ The letter goes on to say that Cresta management ‘distanced itself from that alleged discussion.’
BHTTWU has also made an attempt to bring the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) on board and communicated that in writing to management. The hotel group’s position, as expressed in Makaya’s letter, is that this attempt ‘was astonishing as Cresta Marakanelo has no wage negotiations, dealings whatsoever with the said BOFEPUSU.’ While that may be true, trade unions have a potent weapon that at least one has threatened to use. During last year’s strike, the immediate past president of the Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Health Union, Pelotshweu Baeng, warned that if Cresta management was not going to give workers a fair day’s pay, his Union would instruct its members to boycott Cresta group hotels. Baeng’s successor, Goretetse Kekgonegile, says that the Union – which boasts 12 000 members – still maintains that position. A dejected Moyo has thrown in the towel. “I have done my part. I don’t think I can do any more,” the MP says. He says the union has been reasonable and management the opposite of that. “I think the workers were very reasonable because they agreed to an addition of just 0.5 percent on what they asked for originally and they had gone back to work before the dispute was resolved,” Moyo said. As to whether the union’s reasonableness made the management unreasonable, he responded thus: “Yes, I think so and most probably is negotiating in bad faith. I don’t think their conditions are fair on workers.”