Negotiations between Management of the Diamond Trading Company Botswana and the Botswana Diamond Sorters and Valuators Union (BDVSU) (DTCB branch), over the 2008/09 wage increases, which started on July 7, 2008 have reached a deadlock, and the Commissioner of Labour has ruled that parties return to the negotiating table.
Notwithstanding the Mediator’s ruling, it is apparent that an industrial action is imminent, that is unless DTCB management does some rethinking of their positions.
The company’s Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Kago Mmopi, acknowledged that they are engaged in negotiations with the Union, but intimated that Management is yet to pronounce their official position regarding the status of the discussions, and way forward.
For his part, BDVSU Vice Secretary, Jacob Mpasopi, said that, although they are not aware of the new options that Management raised during the course of mediation, and that it is improper that they only have to learn of such from the Mediator, “We have always maintained an open mind in respect of all our proposals, but Management kept taking with the left hand what they gave with the right after every adjournment.”
However, Mpasopi recalled instances when Management told those (Union representatives) that they are constrained by their mandate to make certain decisions, but he believes there is more that Management could and can do. ‘They simply have to resolve to act.”
Information passed to the Sunday Standard indicates that negotiations were initially set to take five days, but had to be extended by another four days, as parties could not find common ground. The only thing that both sides managed to agree on after having met in at least four occasions was that, there was a deadlock, on 17 July, 2008, whereupon the parties shared the view that mediation was necessary.
Issues on the negotiating table included Cost of living (COLA), Merit-based on performance and allowances such as Shift allowance, confinement and transport and gas allowances. Both parties came up with their proposals.
Basing on what they described as ‘market range’ and citing staff benefits offered to staff, by companies in the same bracket as DTCB, BDVSU argued that their members should be given 17% across the board for COLA, and that 7% of the wage bill be distributed among the achieving staff, at 8% for minimum score range of 2.0-2.4 and maximum 23% for 4.5-4.9.
They argue that Companies such as Botswana Savings Bank, Bank of Botswana and Debswana pay their employees in the range of 14-16% for cost of living, that the recent 15% salary increase by the Botswana Meat Commission is a clear indicator that there is general appreciation that the cost of living has gone up, and thus the need to cater for inflationary adjustments.. In addition, employees hold that DTCB’s current wages are from being competitive.
Management, on the other hand, remained unmoved at 7% cost of living and that it can only offer its employees 2.5% of the wage bill for distribution at minimum score range of 2.0-2.4 worth 6% and maximum 15.5% for 4.5-4.9.
On account of the disparities between the parties’ standpoints, a deadlock became unavoidable.
The matter was then referred to the Commissioner of Labour, and mediation accordingly started on 4 August, 2008 ending with another deadlock on 12 August, 2008, and the advisory award following on 15 August, 2008.
Apparently the positions adopted during mediation seem more than anything else like the ones that define the path that the duo may rail into.
While the Unions demands remained fundamentally unchanged, Management has, in fact, altered its figures drastically in a manner that one official, who declined to be named, described as “provocative,” and certainly not encouraging. They stuck at 7% for cost of living, while for Merit they adjusted to 2.1 % of the wage bill to spread thus; 1.5% for 2.0-2-4 minimum and maximum of 8.5% for 3.5-3.9.
Against this background, another deadlock ensued, whence the Office of the Commissioner did the only thing that the parties must have readily anticipated; he dispersed them, pending an advisory award.
According to the advisory award issued by the Mediator on conclusion of the hearing, Parties have agreed to have engaged in further negotiation. “Then this gave the Mediator an impression that they (parties) have prematurely referred to Labour before exhausting necessary avenues regarding the matter.”
Additionally, the Commissioner highlighted that there were instances during mediation where management would come up with new options concerning the issue, and that, which clearly showed that the parties had not exhausted their options.
Furthermore, the Labour Office requested for a recognition agreement from the parties, they both indicated that there is no such agreement between them and that they have always negotiated on the usual practice.
In conclusion, the award reads in part, “In light of the foregoing the mediator gave this advice” that the parties should further engage each other on the same issues and try to reach a settlement or that they should refer for arbitration for further deliberation.