Sunday, March 7, 2021

BR’s union leader gets the boot, another retained

The Botswana Railways Early Exit Appeals Board has upheld management’s decision to retrench the Botswana Railways Amalgamated Workers Union secretary general, Tsenang Nfila, while overturning that of the union’s chairperson, Gaebepe Molaodi. Both were earmarked for retrenchment last December but appealed to the Appeals Board which decided their fate last week. By strict application of the collective responsibility principle, Molaodi as part of the Board, is officially and technically party to the decision to uphold Nfila’s retrenchment. However, there is ample reason to suppose that she would have been vehemently opposed to it. Throughout the entire restructuring exercise saga, Nfila has been a thorn in the side of management, ceaselessly matching wits with the human resources department. However, Wednesday he ceased to be a BR employee. It is unlikely the fat lady has sung yet because even before he left, Nfila had placed on record the union’s grievances about the manner in which employees earmarked for involuntary retrenchment were ultimately shed. In his particular case, he got a letter that said that he was not deemed a “best-fit” for the new organisational structure and thus had to be let go. BRAWU went to the Industrial Court to compel BR to constitute the Appeals Board but even with the latter taking shape, the union said employees who wanted to appeal had to be furnished with full details about why they were deemed unsuitable to work for the company. In terms of the Early Exit Policy, “Those employees who cannot be considered for redeployment/retraining, shall be informed in writing that they are being considered for an involuntary early exit and invited to make representation to the Board through the Human Resource Manager within a period of 30 days, if they so wish.” On this basis of this provision, BRAWU asked management to provide each retrenched employee with his or her detailed assessment report by the Early Exit Assessment Board. Such report was to include the process by which BR determined that some employees were not fit to work for it. “Please note that these are the reports that the Early Exit Appeals Board will be reviewing to scrutinise whether the early exit criteria was applied consistently and equitably. Without these reports, there will be absolutely nothing for the Appeals Board to consider,” Nfila wrote to the human resource department while still BRAWU’s secretary general. BR didn’t accede to such demands and one BRAWU official has hinted at the possibility of the matter going to the High Court on the basis of management’s alleged subversion of the rules. The news of Nfila fate has not reached the London-based International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) which has accused BR management of “destabilising” BRAWU by getting rid of its leadership. ITF has 708 affiliate unions in 154 countries worldwide and in its letter to BR CEO, Dominic Ntwaagae, has warned that all these many unions would be following this case.

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