Despite the recent setback in their standoff with their employer, during which the industrial court dismissed their urgent application seeking the reversal of Barclays bank’s unilateral increment of employees’ salaries, Botswana Bank Employees Union President Jayson Chakalaisa remains adamant that the battle is far from over.
“Of course we weren’t happy with the ruling but we are not about to give up. The court said that some of clauses we wrote were not workable. After seeking advice from our legal advisors, we have decided to redraft our clauses in order for them to align with the current labor laws, and then re-launch our case,” said Chakalisa.
Industrial court judge Harold Ruhukya recently dismissed the union’s urgent application.
BOBEU had dragged Barclays bank to court after management took a unilateral decision to increase employee salaries without consultation. The court found the application misconceived and lacking sufficient grounds to justify the alleged urgency.
“The court finds on the whole that the applicant’s effort to prove that it was justified in approaching the court on a matter of urgency fails dismally. None of the reasons laid out by the applicant render the matter worthy of being heard on an urgent basis” ruled Ruhukya.
Towards the end of 2009, BOBEU filed an urgent application against Barclays Bank at the industrial court over the pay row. BOBEU argued that salary negotiations between them and Barclays bank had reached a deadlock, and the matter had been referred for mediation after which no settlement was reached.
Barclays refused to consent to BOBEU’s requirement for them to consider arbitration, and went on to implement payment of its final offer of salary increments to the employees’ accounts.
Salary negotiations between had been dragging on for months without a solution, with Barclays maintaining that the salary increments that BOBEU was insisting upon were unjustified.
BOBEU had suggested salary increments of 20.5% for band A, 15% for band B, and 13.25% for band C. Barclays management countered with a proposal for 16% for band A, 10.5% for band B, and 8% for band C.
Chakalisa explained that on the 19th of November Barclays credited employees’ salaries as usual, and then a few hours later credited them with additional funds that were commensurate with Barclays’ proposed salary increments.
“It was then that the decision to take Barclays to court came up. Mediation talks had failed, and Barclays bank had refused to go for arbitration. If such a situation arises then the matter becomes a dispute of interest. The only action that was available to us was that of industrial action, but we choose the dignified way of approaching the courts of law for relief” said Chakalisa. The case was heard on December 7th.
Justice Ruhukya later ruled that section 18 of the Trade and Dispute Act of 2004 provides that the court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in every matter properly before it. This power shall include the power to hear and determine all trade disputes except disputes of interests, such that the case should not have come before the industrial court.