The standoff between Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) over who is entitled to sit at the bargaining table might collapse the negotiations at the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).
BOPEU on Friday dragged BOFEPUSU to court challenging its admission to PSBC. BOPEU argues that BOFEPUSU is not a trade union that is recognised at the work place by the employer. BOPEU says only individual trade unions that constitute BOFEPUSU are recognised at the work place by the employer therefore threshold should be met by individual trade unions at PSBC.
Attorney Joseph Akoonyatse representing BOPEU told Industrial court that a position to admit the four trade unions at PSBC as BOFEPUSU cannot be correct.
“We ought to make sure that whoever is sitting at the bargaining table are the right people who are supposed to be sitting there. We want to first confirm who is supposed to sit at the bargaining council before the negotiation for 2016/2017 can commence,” said Akoonyatse.
The BOPEU lawyer told court that they are entitled to challenge the PSBC because it is a public institution and any citizen is entitled to challenge it before the courts of law if they feel it is not run accordingly as governed by its constitution.
“PSBC is given powers in terms of the statute. The constitution and the ACT of PSBC must be the governing documents in terms of what should be done and what should not be done. PSBC has no power to do what is not permitted by its constitution and PSBC ACT,” said Akoonyatse.
BOPEU said it was not interested in challenging what has happened in the past but wants to deal with what will happen in the future.
On the other hand Tshiamo Rantao representing BOFEPUSU said he does not understand the basis of BOPEU case because they are not seeking orders that they are entitled to sit at the bargaining council.
“This application is not concerned with whether BOPEU is a member of PSBC or not,” said Rantao.
Rantao said BOPEU was party to the arrangement that was made back in 2011 that trade unions will bargain as BOFEPUSU at PSBC.
“It was never disputed that BOPEU was part of this arrangement; as an individual trade union BOPEU has never at a given time decided to go solo at the bargaining table, BOPEU chose to remain under BOFEPUSU,” said Rantao.
Rantao said BOPEU cannot enjoy the joint decision for four years and after deciding to abandon the joint decision now sees the decision as wrong.
“Tell the court why you have been sitting on your rights for four years, justice delayed is justice denied, this application is incompetent to interdict, the whole intention of this application is to dismantle the bargaining table,” charged Rantao.
Rantao said it can be concluded that BOPEU is only doing this because it left the joint arrangement. He added that bringing this application BOPEU did not consider that the standoff means that there will be no changes in salaries of civil servants in April 1st.
Representing PSBC attorney Omphemetse Motumise told the court that it is not clear why BOPEU approached the courts of law.
Motumise said BOPEU focus is the admission of BOFEPUSU into the PSBC, adding that BOPEU is not seeking any order relating to its interest.
“BOPEU is talking about dislodging BOFEPUSU from the PSBC; dismantling the bargaining table and putting to halt the negotiations for 2016/2017 at PSBC.
“The primary object of BOPEU is to remove BOFEPUSU from the bargaining Council; what is BOPEU’s interest in dislodging BOFEPUSU from the bargaining table? BOPEU is failing to supply this court with such answer,” said Motumise.
Motumise said BOPEU is not saying that it is the one that qualifies to be sitting at the negotiating table so once they dislodge BOFEPUSU there will be a vacuum on the 2016/2017 negotiations at PSBC.
“The effect of BOPEU orders simply means the bargaining table is no more, the negotiations are abandoned and the entire public services hang in limbo. This is what BOPEU want to achieve,” argued Motumise.