Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has vowed to fight government to the bitter end if it continues to play deaf to the grievances of the nurses.
Speaking during the official opening of the BONU Annual General Congress held in Francistown last Wednesday, the outgoing BONU President Obonolo Rahube said despite their efforts to engage government on the welfare of nurses, nothing much seems to improve as nurses continue to be subjected to harsh working conditions.
“We have an issue of delayed promotions. This issue led to BONU seeking recourse from the High Court and thus her Lordship Tau ordered 305 nurses to be given their dues. The implementation is at slow pace and it should be fast tracked. To our shock and amazement we have since seen a savingram authored by a certain Doctor by the name of Dr Machacha which is biased and does not carry the spirit of comradeship,” he said.
He said nursing is the only cadre which is subjected to harsh and biased working conditions as compared to other cadres such as doctors and allied workers under the Ministry of Health and Wellness. He said the savingram only unfairly targets nurses who participated in the mother of all strike in 2011, exempting other cadres who also participated in the same strike. Rahube further expressed disappointment over failure by government to provide them with adequate uniforms and uniform allowances.
“The uniform issue has been with nurses for a very long time. The employer has failed to issue adequate uniforms or uniform allowances. Where issued, it was not adequate compelling nurses to dig deep into their pockets to buy themselves uniforms. Discussion on this issue started as soon as we got into office and there was no solution until we decided to seek intervention from the courts,” he said.
Rabonolo said this compelled the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) to come back to the negotiation table and ultimately an out of court settlement was agreed upon and issued as order of the court. To their disappointment he said the settlement is now done haphazardly as some of their counterparts especially those at the former Ministry of Tertiary Education(MOTE) which is now the Ministry of Education and Skills Development are currently not getting their monthly uniform allowance, a situation which has been dragging for a long time.
“BONU requests the Minister of Health and Wellness to engage with the said Ministry to fast track that. It is not only the monthly allowance; they are even owed the uniform compensation of P4 400. This is a huge anomaly which brings divisions and lack of equity on our fellow comrades,” he said.
He said all these issues might further destroy their relationship with government.
Among other important issues, Rahube expressed disappointment over the Nursing and Midwifery Act. He said the Union has long called for the review of this Act as it is old and does not reflect the current trends. This includes the independence of the regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Botswana (NMCB) and the inclusion of a host of other nursing qualifications in the NMCB Register. He also said they have raised issues of decentralization of the annual practicing license renewal but nothing much has been achieved in that regard. He said they are often taken from pillar to post when raising the issue. Rahube also lamented on the high number of unemployed nursing graduates roaming the streets.
“A resolution was taken to lobby government to open up the policy that restricts nurses from going overseas. This restriction is no longer practical with the situation we are in. Kenya has done it. Nurses there can easily find employment in the Western countries. We have engaged unsuccessfully with the former Ministers of Foreign Affairs to assist us in the matter but to no avail,” he said
BONU has since engaged with NEU Professionals a recruitment agency with headquarters in London, to facilitate the absorption of nursing graduates in first world countries especially the United Kingdom (UK). According to BONU, they are currently close to 600 unemployed graduates.