Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Court orders Mascom to allow “managers” to unionise

The High Court has directed Botswana’s leading network provider Mascom Wireless to allow its employees in Band 5 to join the Botswana Communications Workers Union (BOCOWU).

The order followed an application by BOCOWU through their lawyers Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole Attorneys. 

At the centre of the dispute between the parties was whether or not Mascom employees employed at band 5 of the company’s “job families” are members of its management and as such ineligible for membership of the union.

Following its registration in 2015, BOCOWU approached Mascom Wireless with a request for recognition as the lawful representative of Mascom employees.

The union presented a list of members comprising Mascom employees at band 1 to Band 5.

Around December 2015, Mascom and BOCOWU had a meeting to deal with, mainly, administration issues like deductions of monthly union contributions from the employees’ salaries among others. It would seem there was an agreement between the parties in relation to deductions, the only glitch being of logistical nature relating to Mascom’s payroll system which had to be reconfigured to accommodate the new development.

According to court papers, it was not until 20th April 2016 that Mascom stated that its employees at Band 5, who were part of the list submitted by the union in November 2015 were not eligible for union membership because they were part of management.

BOCOWU’s position is that Mascom employees who are at Band 5 or at least those who are at Band 5 and whose names were submitted to Mascom in November 2015 as part of its union members were not part of the Mascom management.

The court papers also show that there was a dispute between the parties on the question of whether Mascom’s employees in Band 5 form part of management to the extent that they should be held to be ineligible for membership in the union. Mascom has always raised the point that there were disputes of fact in the matter rendering the case incapable of resolution.

In its submission the union argued that the disputes of fact in the matter were capable of resolution.

Mascom’s Chief Human Resource Officer Gape Sebonego had asserted that the affected members at Band 5 are senior engineers, senior analysts, retail sales coordinators and supervisors, senior administrators, help desk supervisors, contact centre coordinators, data base administrators, project management officer and brand management officer. But the union through its administrator Joseph Serema accuses Mascom of attempting to deny the union the financial benefit likely to be derived from the union membership subscriptions from those employees as according to Mascom they are many and well paid.

But Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe found that Mascom has not availed the job descriptions for the employees in Band 5 and said to be in the categories of company’s management.

“In the absence of the job descriptions of the above employees, this court is hamstrung to agree with the respondent (Mascom) that they are indeed part of its employees who are members of its management as envisaged by section of the TUEO (Trade Unions and. Employers’ Organizations Act,” he said.

He therefore ruled that the “the decision of Mascom to treat or consider all its employees in Band 5 as members of management of the company is unlawful.

Mascom was also directed to facilitate the deduction of subscriptions of members of BOCOWU who are at Band 5 with immediate effect.

It was also ordered to pay BOCOWU an amount equivalent to membership subscriptions according to the balance of the months from the date of first subscription to date of judgement for all members of the company at Band 5 and to pay costs of the application.

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