The Industrial Court has thrown out a case in which ten employees of the Botswana Public Service Union (BOPEU) had dragged their employer to court for nonpayment of a 13th cheque last year.
Through a letter issued this week, Registrar of the Industrial has referred the issue to officials at Department of Labour for a mediation exercise.
“You are consequently advised to approach the Department of Labour for mediation or arbitration of the dispute with the employer, the respondent. Your dispute may subsequently be referred to the Industrial Court, depending on your election, if there is no settlement of the dispute at the Department of Labour. We undertake to assist you once your dispute is properly referred to us,” the letter states.
This week, BOPEU also got an opportunity to file replying papers to counter the employees’ application.
In filed Court papers, Union President Andrew Motsamai says that the irony of the matter is that the new terms and conditions of service which the employees are complaining about resulted in almost all employees involved in the suit getting more than 200 percent salary hike as well as a commuted overtime 10 percent allowance. Apparently, the employees have been getting these benefits for the past two years.
The Union says it has no objection to reverting to the old pay structure and condition of service. It says it is prepared to pay a 13th cheque, only on condition that the employees pay back the commuted overtime allowance and other payment benefits they have been getting following implementation of new terms and conditions of service.
Motsamai states that the Union is a non profiting making organization and makes money through monthly subscriptions of members, running a micro-lending enterprise and bulk sale of airtime.
The Union says that besides the fact that it has no money to expend on salaries, some of its employees, namely Justice Modise, Bathalefi Mokokwe, Keabetswe Rammilong and Aobakwe Monnaletsatsi are not even entitled to a 13th cheque because their employment contracts make no reference to a 13th cheque.
“2011 was a year that will forever be remembered in the history of the Union, and indeed the country, because of the historic 8 week public sector strike which resulted in several hundreds of the Union members losing their jobs and experiencing hardship as a result of the application of the no work no pay rule. Because of the extra ordinary and unprecedented hardship that our membership faced in 2011, the Central Committee decided that it would be most callous and insensitive to use the funds raised from the members facing unprecedented hardship to pay employees a discretionary bonus,” states Motsamai.
“Union subscriptions were increased not so that the Union could make lavish payments to its employees, but in order to improve service delivery to the membership. I am extremely disappointed that the applicants have shown extreme insensitivity to the hardship that the members of the Union experienced as a result of the public sector strike,” he further states.