The Government faces a lawsuit for breaching an agreement to increase civil servants’ salaries. The salary adjustments were deferred by Government after the outbreak of the coronavirus in Botswana. The Botswana Land Board Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) has already made its intention known that it will take the Director of Directorate of Public Services Management (DPSM) to court for failing to adjust salaries of its members who are part of civil servants.
Giving a background of what necessitated the decision to issue a threat to sue the government, the union through its attorneys Rockfall Lekgowe Law Group states that on or around 31st January 2019, BLLAHWU and other public sector unions engaged in talks with the DPSM aimed at negotiating a salary increment for its members at the bargaining council. Such talks ended on 2nd February 2019 and the parties entered into a collective bargaining agreement titled Public Services Salaries Negotiations for the financial years 2019/2020and 2020/2021 Agreement. The lawyers stated that it was agreed that a salary increment of 10 percent for salary scales A and B and a 6 percent salary increment for salary scales C and D for financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
Salary increments for financial year 2019/2020 were duly paid and the salary adjustments for 2020/2021 financial year was to be paid from 1st April 2020.The lawyers also stated that sometime in or around February 2020, in a presentation before the National Assembly, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning announced that the salary increment had been budgeted for and would therefore be paid as and when it would become due.However, at the end of April 2020, public servants were shocked to find out that there had been no salary increments as had been agreed by the unions and the DPSM and as per an undertaking made by the Government.
According to the lawyers, the DPSM Director, in a televised broadcast announced to the public that there would be deferment of the salary increment for the year 2020/2021 and appealed to the unions to accept such a position due to the coronavirus pandemic.On 22nd April 2020, the public sector unions wrote a letter to DPSM demanding that the salary increment be effected a per the collective bargaining agreement.“It is noteworthy that during the period of communication other public sector unions changed their position and agreed to have their salary increment deferred,” the union said.
The lawyers added that “The claimant union, however, informed both Government and the other public sector unions that it wished to be excluded from the salary deferment and demanded performance in terms of the collective bargaining agreement.”Rockfall Lekgowe Legal Group stated that BLLAHWU members stand to suffer as the increment that ought to have accrued on the 1st April would have meant an increase in the investment at pension funds due to a greater amount from both the employer and employee and would have benefitted the claimant’s members in the long run. The deferment of the increment reduced the benefits that ought to rightfully accrue to the members of BLLAHWU.
The union therefore demands that the government increase the salary of its members by 10 percent for scales A and B and 6 percent for scales C and D as well as payment of salary increment arrears from 1st of April 2020.