Sunday, October 17, 2021

BPC retrenchment case reaches the industrial court

The Botswana Power Corporation’s workers union has dragged the power utility company to the industrial court over a retrenchment package of some of its members.

The case, which is expected to be heard at the industrial court in the capital Gaborone on June 1st 2018, follows a decision by BPC to lay off atleast 368 employees through a voluntary separation exercise. The power utility company says it is now operating under a new business structure.

BPC Workers Union General Secretary, Bohithetswe Lentswe this week said that the union had come up with a comprehensive retrenchment package which was shared with BPC but the corporation has since been defied it citing insufficient funds.

The BPC then went ahead to implement its own package of reduced benefits, which left the Union with no other option but to take the matter to industrial court.

While the workers union is said to have initially proposed that all retrenched workers should be paid 45 days for each year they had worked for, Sunday Standard has established that BPC reduced the days to 30 days for each year.

“In terms of notice pay when one is retrenched they have to be paid 5 months notice but BPC paid for only 3 months. When one is laid off and they have a debt with a bank and the package is unable to clear the debt, there was a Default Fund to caution/help clear the employee’s debt, but in BPC’s new preferred package, it is not provided for. If an employee is repatriated they should be given transport or a P15, 000.00 to be able to transport themselves back to their respective homes, but instead BPC opted for either provision of transport or P7, 000.00 only.”, said Lentswe.

Lentswe said with all these highlighted, should they win the battle in court this June, all retrenched employees will be able to get their balances as per the Union’s proposed retrenchment package.

The Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer also confirmed that BPC spent P60million on the retrenched voluntary leavers.

“368 Staff at Bands 6-11 had been released on Voluntary Separation for positions which were not required any more. Cleaning and car maintenance services were outsourced three years ago and yet the workers were still employed by BPC. It’s such kind of cleaning up that we need to do to reduce the overhanging capacity,” he revealed.

Schwarzfischer took over in November 2016 from Jacob Raleru. He told journalists in the capital Gaborone this week that the first Phase of restructuring exercise has been completed with EXCO members appointed.

At the same time, BPC is said to have moved to Phase 2 of the restructuring which entails increasing the corporation’s efficiency. The second phase is expected to be rolled over a period of four years.

The Corporation aims to gain this efficiency increase by reengineering its processes and placing the best candidates into the new organization. Recruitment is ongoing alongside desktop placement of staff as per the new structure. This exercise will be completed in September 2018, atleast according to Dr Schwarzfischer.

The BPC has been running operational losses for years, which amounted to P1.2 billion in 2016/17,  P2 billion in 2015/16, P1.3 billion in 2014/15 and P1.6 billion in 2013/14. Over the last 12 months (2017/18) the operational loss amounted to P1 billion which Dr Schwarzfischer said was supported by tariff increase and reliability of Morupule B, which further reduced imports.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper