Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Civil service retrenchments and recruitment freeze feared as unions demand pay hike

As public service unions press for a 16 percent pay hike, Secretary for Economic and Financial Affairs in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Dr Taufila Nyamadzabo, says any pay rise could require government to extend the current recruitment freeze and lay off some personnel until the economic situation normalizes.

The unions, through BOFEPUSU, are threatening a nation-wide strike in the event that government rejects their demand at the negotiating table.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Nyamadzabo said, “Should government and the bargaining council agree on increases of public sector salaries for 2011/12, it may require government to extend the current recruitment freeze and lay off some personnel until the economic situation normalizes.

“These may be necessary, particularly as uncertainties in the external trade situation as well as deficits in the government budget and balance of payments still continue.”

Dr Nyamadzabo said alternatively government may require further borrowing in order to allow the recurrent budget to sustain access and quality of public services as well as address the large recurrent needs of the recently completed projects.

He explained that increased borrowing will result in increased principal and interest payment and thus reduce the country’s financial assets.

“If the economic recovery has to be sustained, the economy should be on track for a balanced budget by 2012/13. Consequently, while still emphasizing the cost effectiveness of government spending that is focused on national priorities, any adjustment to public service salaries may be considered, for example, after 2012/13 when the economic situation normalizes,” said Dr Nyamadzabo.

The import of Nyamadzabo’s statement infers that even if the coming financial year, government may not be in a position to increase public service salaries, a move that would ensure that their salaries have remained stagnant for a solid five years.

He said it is hoped that the ongoing bargaining process would not reach a stage where government and the bargaining council would have to agree on a public service salary given the budgetary conditions facing the country.

While dismissing the possibility of a public service salary increase, Nyamadzabo is alive to the fact that a salary adjustment is useful for the public service.

“Even though a salary adjustment is useful benefit for the public service, the economy of Botswana is still emerging from the effects of the recent global financial and economic crisis. As the minister said in the 2011 budget speech, the bargaining process must balance the ability of the employer to pay against the aspirations of public sector employees and to take into account other public service salary adjustments such as the one made in October 2010 in arriving at a negotiated income,” said the economic and financial policy secretary.

While government appears unbending on a potential pay rise, BOFEPUSU has threatened a nation-wide strike demanding a 16 percent hike and has in the meantime sought road map from its members on how the industrial action would be executed.

Government has also been accused of negotiating in bad faith and the gripe by the unions is buttressed by the fact that public service salaries have not been increased for three consecutive financial years.

An economist who preferred anonymity said government is hiding behind the economic recession and the recent increase in public service salaries as a result of the coming into effect of the New Public Service Act, which increased the number of working days from 20 to 22.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper