The ongoing debacle between Debswana management and Botswana Mine Workers Union over the planned Operations Review Project reached a crescendo last week when BMWU handed a petition to Debswana Managing Director Blackie Marole demanding that the review be stopped with immediate effect.
BMWU said that the ORP had created job insecurity in Debswana, and staff morale had plummeted.
“We demand your immediate intervention to stop this project. The announcement that management intends to institute a new operations structure was shocking because there was no consultation during any of the joint negotiation and consultation committee meetings between management and the union,” read the BMWU petition.
BMWU also asked why management does not reveal the names of those who will be affected, even when it is clear that 1278 workers will be jobless by May 2010.
The union further demands that management immediately start negotiation packages with those who will be affected.
BMWU also wants Debswana to unbundle the ORP and explain its implications to the employees. BMWU is also unhappy that the ORP is being handled by the human resources department while the head of departments are left in the dark.
“Debswana is a production company and production managers should be allowed to run it. ORP could be driven better if core production managers were on board. Your tendency to engage HR and communications personnel to run the operations review had done more harm than good, as production managers idle around boardrooms as backup for HR personnel when they need clarification.
The HR department has abdicated its role of looking after staff welfare, and they have become tripping hazards to Debswana’s future,” said BMWU.
The union also said the ORP is anti workers, adding that focus on shareholders’ wealth at the expense of workers is exploitation.
Amilia Malebane, Debswana Public Relations Manager, said in a statement that all the problems relating to the current structures and how they affect performance have been assessed and widely communicated to build a sound business case for change, and the benefits of the proposed structures have also been communicated to all parties.
“A sound communication plan has been developed and implemented, so that all our employees and stakeholders are brought up to speed with the progress of the project on a continuous basis.
This project like any other runs in stages and there are certain milestones that must be achieved before certain things can be communicated to our relevant stakeholders,” she said.
Launched in 2008, the ORP is part of Debswana’s 2010 North Star strategy, through which Debswana aims to reduce costs and improve organizational effectiveness.
But BMWU believes that the project is a sweep-up operation, whose implications will be much worse than the 1,278 employees to be retrenched.
“The 1,278 jobs are not inclusive of the job losses that are to result from Debswana’s privatization of its schools, hospitals, and aviation amongst others,” said BMWU secretary General, Jack Tlhagale.
Minerals Energy and Water Resources Minister Ponatshego Kedikilwe was last week non committal when asked if he is aware that the OPR will leave the Boteti community without affordable services.
”Such services fall under the privatization and outsourcing project Phase II, which is at various stages of feasibility and pre-feasibility. Under the circumstances I will be dishonest if I assured them that my ministry will provide affordable social services,” he said.