Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Civil servants to go on strike?

The Government is set for a bruising head on collision with labour unions over the recent decision to disregard the recommendations of the salaries review commission and award public sector employees an across the board 15% salary hike.

Public sector unions have joined forces and set in motion a plan of action through which they will tackle government head on over its controversial decision. Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the Botswana Secondary Teachers Union, Botswana Teachers Union, Botswana Local and Land board Workers Union, Tertiary Alliance Workers Union, Botswana Government Workers Union and Botswana Primary Teachers Association have formed a coalition and established a National Organizing Committee (NOC) through which they will engage government.

By Friday, the NOC, with the help of a consultant, had handed over a position paper to the respective unions, on which their modus operandi will be based. However, the union coalition’s plan of action was derailed on Friday when the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Daniel Kwelagobe, dodged scheduling a meeting with the NOC.

However, BOSETU’s Secretary General, Kwenasebele Modukanele, told The Sunday Standard on Friday that they would not be derailed by the minister’s refusal to meet them. He said that they have deployed delegates to various regions through out Botswana to address meetings with their members on Saturday (yesterday) to update the membership on the stance that the leadership had taken and also get feedback to boost their plan of action.

In a letter signed by BOSETU President Eric Ditau on behalf of the coalition, the public sector unions indicated that they seek to register their displeasure with the government’s decision to award all government employees 15% across the board. The communiqu├® also notes that the discredited 15% increase disregarded the recommendations of the salaries review commission which was set up to come up with interventions that would help motivate, retain and attract quality workforce in the public service.

“Despite the commission’s recommendation of a 30% increase, government has opted for 15% increment which, in our view, will not help to motivate, retain and attract the workers whose morale is very low,” reads the scathing letter.
The communiqu├® also notes that it is the intention of the public service organizations to further engage Minister Kwelagobe on the issue.

Modukanele told The Sunday Standard on Friday that they wonder why the salaries review commission was set up because their input at the commission and the recommendations of the commission were greatly disregarded. He added that the value of the public service salaries has been reducing over the last few years because of the hike in cost of living and erosion of purchasing power. He added that other factors like conditions of service, overtime and professional allowances and many others were thrown out the window and only a 15% hike instituted.

“We still want to meet with the minister and renegotiate this issue because we feel shortchanged,” he said.

Commentators have not ruled out the possibility of civil servants laying down their tools if negotiations with government do not bear fruit. A lecturer at the University of Botswana said that it is not surprising that the public service would want to take government head-on because the government has led them to believe that their conditions of service would be improved by setting up an expensive salaries commission only to disregard its recommendations and slap the civil servants with a paltry 15% hike.

”If government is not careful this situation might explode and become uncontrollable,” he said.
The leadership’s correspondence to the national membership ends by saying: “Let us come in large numbers for the struggle can never be complete without the support of the hoi polloi. In unity we shall overcome.”

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.