The management of the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board this week fired 10 of its employees for alleged insubordination.
This follows after the employees had declined to attend a disciplinary hearing that they had been ordered to attend regarding their refusal to sign new job profiles of service, an act they are reported to have undertaken with instructions from their Union.
Included in the new jobs profile are the following duties: Loading and unloading trucks and rail cars as directed stacking of bags and covering them with tarpaulins operating of simple grain handling equipment as required cleaning of warehouses, yards as directed assisting in fumigation of stacks and warehouses as directed using simple fumigation equipment and complying with safety procedures.
The workers apparently refused to sign the new job profiles because they were against carrying out fumigation duties provided for in the new job profile because they felt they were not given protective clothing to carry out such duties and suspected that it could cost them their lives as it involves using dangerous chemicals.
Asked if it was true that the Union had instructed the workers not to sign the new job profile, the Secretary of the National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union, Johnson Motshwarakgole, said that they had simply asked the workers to give them time to consult their employers regarding the issue of use of fumigations by unprotected staff as they felt that it was unfair to expect workers to work under such conditions as it was unhealthy.
”I can confirm that we have told the workers that they should wait till we consult their employers on the issue of use of fumigations which we felt was a dangerous task to perform if one is not using protective clothing,” he said.
According to him, when the workers were dismissed from work, they were actually still waiting for talks with the management of BAMB on this issue.
That they have taken the stern step of dismissing the employees whilst they were still waiting to negotiate with them he said was a very harsh thing to do.
After their failure to meet Masego Mphathi, the Chief Executive of BAMB, over the matter as he was said to be out in Kasane on official duties, Motshwarakgole said that they had sought audience with the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Oliphant Mfa, who has agreed to intervene.
”I am happy that Mfa has agreed to intervene on behalf of the workers whom we feel have been unfairly dismissed for only asking for an explanation of a simple issue,” he said.
The workers’ concern, he said, could have been caused by the suspicion that one of their colleagues had allegedly died because of using fumigations without wearing protective gear.
”This was a concern which was worth looking into instead of dismissing workers most of whom have been working for the Board for more than 10 years,” he said.
Asked to comment on this, the Public Relations Officer of the BAMB, Bennet Maifala, said that it was not true that the workers were not provided with protective clothing. According to him, this can never happen because the safety of their staff is very important to them.
”This is not true; we provide them with protective clothing and we can display them for anyone wishing to see them anytime,” he said.
On the issue not having responded to Motshwarakgole to get together to discuss the issue, Maifala said that this was also not true.
”We could not have disagreed to that. Motswhwarakgole never made an attempt to meet us on the issue,” he said.