The Botswana Vaccine Institute Staff Union (BVISU) has dismissed as false a statement issued in Parliament by the Acting Minister of Agriculture Kgotla Autlwetse recently that at least 60 employees of the institute were sent for further education between 2006 and 2013.
Responding to Autlwetse’s statement, BVISU Secretary General Thusang Butale said “From 2006 to 2013 the institute has sent Zero (0) employees to study for qualifications such as Master’s degree or degree not even diploma.”
Butale said the institute has always maintained, in letters given to staff members, that its financial position did not allow it to send employees for further studies and employees who furthered their studies during the period had to sponsor themselves or find sponsorships elsewhere.
“There has never been any employee sent on a course (workshop) for duration of more than two weeks during the stipulated seven (7) year period. One of the reasons for the recent spate of resignations at the institute has been because of the institute’s inability to adequately train and develop its staff,” said Butale.
He said the union has always implored management to develop staff as this would assist in improving staff morale and can also be used as an initiative for staff retention.
“It is worth noting that the Performance Management System (PMS) has not been realized since 2009. Ordinarily, the system is supposed to be used to identify training needs and trainings should then be done based on the skill needs identified,” said Butale.
He said the introduction of the scarce skill allowance by government resulted in BVI salaries being less competitive when compared to government and the market in general.
“This and other reasons prompted the Institute to evaluate its pay structure and while the pay structure was being reviewed a retention allowance was given to staff members who were deserving of scarce skills allowance as per the regulations,” said Butale.
He said the retention allowance was 25% instead of the 40% that was given to their counterparts in the civil service. The introduction of the retention allowance coincided with the government’s scarce skill implementation date.
“On July 16, 2009 salary notifications were given to staff after the completion of the Job evaluation results and the new pay structure informing staff of their new salaries and explicitly stating that ‘ … the retention allowance is terminated effective 30th June 2009′,” said Butale.
According to Butale, from these developments three (3) things are observable; scarce skills/ retention allowance was not incorporated into the salaries but the institute decided to adopt the new pay structure rates and terminated the allowance completely.
Secondly, all employees, whose profession should receive scarce skills, hired after 2009 have never been paid scarce skill allowance.
He said the statement by Autlwetse stating that all allowances were incorporated into the salaries is misleading and inaccurate.
“Furthermore, current scientists salaries do not have laboratory allowance since those working inside the laboratory and those outside the laboratory earn the same salary but if the allowance had been incorporated the salaries would be different,” said Butale.
Butale said BVI’s strategic position in Botswana, its importance to securing livestock trade and its technical nature warrant its employees to receive scarce skills allowance. The Institute’s salaries do not attract suitably qualified new entrants and fail to retain skilled personnel.
Answering a question in Parliament, Autlwetse, said the employees were sent for short term training for competences on vaccine production. He said one employee is reading for a Master’s of Science degree (MSc) while another is planned to go this year in June.
Autlwetse said he was not aware that employees of BVI did not receive scare skills allowance. He said the BVI board of directors decided to incorporate all staff allowances into basic salaries in 2008. He said that included scares skills allowance and the decision was implemented in January 2009.
The Member of Parliament for Nata /Gweta, Polson Majaga, had asked the Minister of Agriculture if he was aware that employees of BVI did not receive scare skills allowance.
MP Majaga also wanted him to state the number of employees that the research institute and vaccine producer had sent for further education to read for qualifications such as master’s degree programmes.