The case in which Barclays Management Staff Union (BAMSU) is seeking recognition from the bank has been set for hearing on March 30 before the Industrial Court.
BAMSU, a registered trade union with the Registrar of Societies in 1993, has taken Barclays Bank of Botswana Limited to court because the bank’s executive management has “unlawfully” refused to recognize them as a negotiating body on behalf of its members.
According to the papers filed with the court, following registration, the union was informally recognized by the bank as a representative of its staff who are members of management.
While the parties never concluded a collective labour agreement aimed at regulating their relations during the period between 1993 and 2004, BAMSU was consulted by the bank on a wide array of issues touching on its members’ contracts of employment.
The union was even invited by the bank to negotiate salary adjustments on an annual basis.
However, following the coming into effect of the Trade Disputes Act 2003, in April 2004 outlining the procedure to be followed for a trade union to be recognized by an employer for collective bargaining purposes, BAMSU applied to the bank for recognition and provided it with a draft agreement for that purpose.
On the 29th October 2004, the union received a letter advising that in order for it (union) to be recognized, it had to prove that it was registered and that it represented at least one third of employer’s employees.
The union obliged but it was not until 2nd September 2005 that the bank responded and rejected their application on the ground that its membership did not constitute one third of the employees of the bank.
Faced with the rejection, the union on the 31st August 2007 referred the dispute over the refusal for recognition to the District Labour Office in Gaborone. A mediation was conducted in September 2007 and when the parties failed to settle a certificate for referral to the Industrial Court was issued.
Following the issuance of the certificate of referral, the union held the matter in abeyance as it was uncertain of its prospects of success and only revisited the recognition issue in November 2008 on the basis of the Industrial Court judgment in the case of Botswana Railways Crew Union against BR management.
In December 2008, Barclays management rejected the application for recognition again on the basis that the judgment that the union had relied upon had been appealed against. The appeal was concluded and thereafter the union resuscitated its application for recognition, which was still rejected leading to the current court application.
In its application, the union argues that it is a registered union with 346 members and that it represents 151 of the said employees and thereby constituting more than the required one third of employees as per the Trade Disputes Act.
It is submitted by the union that the bank’s decision to refuse it recognition is in violation of Section 48 (1) of the Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisation Act.