The Botswana Bank Employees Union has threatened to drag Barclays Bank to court after mediation talks to try and resolve a pay hike dispute collapsed. A war of words erupted between the two after Barclays Bank management took a unilateral decision to increase employee salaries without consulting the union.
BOBEU are apparently irked by the fact that the bank increased salaries at a rate that was lower than what they had bargained for.
Barclays management this month increased employee salaries from scale B1 to B3 after pressure from the employees. Recently, the bank management snubbed the employees’ attempt to submit a petition to Managing Director Thuli Johnson during a countrywide demonstration.
BOBEU chairperson, Jayson Chakalisa, told The Telegraph last week that they had been locked in salary negotiations with Barclays Bank management for months, but it appears that management had refused to budge, maintaining that the salary increase that the union was insisting upon is unwarranted.
The union 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 Barclays’ management on the 19th of November credited employees’ salaries as usual, and then a few hours later, credited them with additional funds that are commensurate with Barclays’ proposed salary increments.
Barclays management announced the salary hikes in a letter written to all their employees.
“I am happy to announce that today B1 to B3 colleagues have received their salary increases and back pays for 2009, a decision that has been reached after considerable debate and dialogue. It is, however, disappointing that it had to be taken without the buy-in of the union,” wrote Johnson.
┬á He went on to accuse the union of not willing to negotiate while they, as management, had negotiated and re-shuffled their offer to the current figures they proposed.┬á
But Chakalisa remains resolute that BOBEU does not support the salary hikes.
“We are planning to push ahead with the court action because we believe that management should not have instituted the salary increments while we were still in negotiations. Our legal adviser is at the moment busy drawing up legal papers for the case,” said Chakalisa.
┬áHe also revealed that the labour department had intervened to try and bring the stalemate to an end, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The Commissioner of Labour then issued both parties with a certificate of non-settlement declaring that mediation attempts had drawn a blank.
“Management has refused to accede to our demands. They stood by their proposed figures and we stood by ours. We have never come to any agreement since then. The November 19th salary increments therefore came as a complete surprise to us,” said Chakalisa.
Johnson explained in a letter written to the employees that management believes that the proposed salary increments are attractive and work better for both parties, especially when taking into account the current economic conditions, the bank’s competitive position, increasing internal costs and the fact that the offer is competitive relative to the market.
┬á“In breach of the collective Bargaining Agreement, the union also participated in demonstrations whilst the negotiation process was not exhausted. Management, however, continued to extend their invitation to the Union to find an amicable solution to the matter. It was quite disappointing that despite management’s good offer, the parties had to declare a deadlock as the union had still not changed their position,” he said.
Johnson added that management is still willing to continue dialogue with the union to work on other issues that were mentioned in the petition. Such issues include, among others, concerns over shortage of staff, overtime, whistle blowing, unfair labour practices, bogus bonus payments, staff pension, flawed disciplinary procedures, inconsistent applications of allowances and working hours.
“It is against this background that we believe it is in the interest of our colleagues in the B1-B3 cadre, and indeed in the interest of improving our colleague franchise as a whole, to go ahead and pay the salary increases. I hope that this will be appreciated as a way of improving the working conditions of our colleagues, who have had to go without salary increases for almost a year,” wrote Johnson.