The Botswana Federation of Public Service Union (BOFEPUSU) is threatening to pull out of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) because they feel its powers have been usurped by President Ian Khama and Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) Carter Morupisi. Confidential documents passed to the Sunday Standard revealed a tortured relationship between BOFEPUSU and government which is the other half in the partnership.
BOFEPUSU complains of “violations of the functions of the PSBC as a result of the implementation of the employers’ unilateral decisions.” The BSBC, whose mandate is to advise government on the remuneration of civil servants, comprises representatives from government and the public service trade union. The PSBC whose legitimacy and efficacy is currently shaky was set up at the cost of P6 million; with equal contributions from BOFEPUSU and government. According to the documents, government feels that “the decision of the union party not to continue with the ongoing negotiations is unprocedural.”
The government insists that it is “negotiating in good faith and that the 4 percent salary adjustment and conditions of service which have been implemented are issues that have been tabled before the Council.” The government was responding to concerns raised by the union party that “it will be difficult to start negotiations under an environment where our right to good faith collective bargaining and the functioning of the PSBC are violated as a result of unilateral implementation of the employers’ proposals while negotiations are ongoing.” The Union also states that procedures for meeting and negotiations are violated by the government. BOFEPUSU calls on government “to table fresh negotiation items for 2014/15 and not 2013 ones.” The union also accuses government of acting in violation of mediation settlement certificate of 26 March by pressing for negotiation items that have been implemented.
“The employer has noticed the court through an affidavit of the DPSM wherein he stated that the 4 percent salary increase and conditions of service being implemented were different from the once proposed at PSBC, whereas at the PSBC you state the contrary,” says BOFEPUSU. The union also states that it “will seek alternative redress to protect its right to good faith collective bargaining.” The government replied that it “is still willing to continue with the current negotiations.” Contacted for comment, BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa told Sunday Standard that the Union’s leadership will meet next week to map the way forward. “We will have a central committee meeting next week and will also hold a regional congress of the federation. We will introspect and we want our members to own the decision that we will take,” he said.
Motshegwa said they were also analyzing the financial aspect of their contribution towards the PSBC saying each party contributed P3 million each for establishment of the PSBC secretariat. “We cannot continue channeling money towards something whose powers have been usurped by the President and DPSM Director. Our aim has been to persevere and nature PSBC but the government has been reluctant to do things properly,” said Motshegwa. He added that “it took the government a year to nominate representatives and another year to assist in the setting up of the PSBC structure.” Motshegwa said should the PSBC collapse the government will have to account to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“Botswana has signed the decent and country program of ILO and sits on the governing body of the same organisation. But it is surprising when you consider the way it treats PSBC because to President Khama and Morupisi PSBC is nonsexist,” he said. He added that “it is better we let it collapse and the question that Botswana will have to answer from ILO will be; where is the PSBC. We have been helping government to paint a rosy picture of the labour issues in the country. But the leadership has no regard for ILO because there is no political will. Maybe the mandate of the PSBC contradicts those of the current administration because they want to take decisions alone on issues relating to remunerations and conditions of service for civil servants.”
For his part BOFEPUSU Secretary General Rari said they have launched an appeal before the court challenging what he called unilateral decisions made by President Khama and Morupisi. “We have launched a case and we want the court to make a determination on two things; whether President Khama and Morupisi have the powers to alter conditions outside the PSBC. If the court says the two have powers to do so and rules in their favour then we will sit down and map the way forward. Secondly we also want the court to define the powers of the PSBC and the President,” he said. Rari added that if the court “rules in our favour, we will have legal backing to restore the powers of the PSBC.
The decision to quit PSBC has not been arrived at as we speak.” Morupisi said “the union party should not decide to bolt out like that. They should call the other party to a negotiation table and resolve our differences amicably.” Acting Presidential Affairs Minister Shaw Kgathi said “there is a government party and union party at the council but I have not been briefed on their intention to quit. But they would not have told me if it is something that they are considering and have not made a final decision.”