Forty employees of DWD Drilling Technologies (Pty) Limited are disgruntled by what they term “unfair retrenchment”, after they recieved letters April 17 when they returned from holidays.
They were still awaiting the management’s further consultation on the matter when they were received the letters.
One of them, a representative of Botswana Mine Workers Union at the company, Tefo Gosiang, said the management informed them of the looming retrenchment.
The union then took steps to find whether the retrenchment process would done correctly. When unionists approached the Commissioner of Labour and the management was called to explain it denied their intention was to retrench anytime soon.
“On March 23, the DWD management was ordered to submit recognition forms which would ensure the union was involved and understood what was happening. We waited and what we got is sad news,” he said.
There could be more retrenchments as at the time of the interview more people were receiving the letters. Another saddening issue, he said, was the employees’ severance benefits.
“No one has received severance benefits. What we learn, at least from what my letter and attached severance benefit page, is that people got the benefits together with their payments during the course of their employment.
Some, like me, have been informed that we were over-paid; something that leaves us with negative figures,” he said, showing the page indicating that of the over P20 000 he was entitled to, he would ultimately pocket a paltry P345.
He has worked for the company for five years. Most of the retrenched employees worked as drivers, shift officers, welders and fabricators, drill rig operators and their assistants.
Some of the employees, he said have been with the company since 2004. Because they had been getting incentives like bonuses, their remunerations were satisfactory, but with retrenchment their story is changed. Many are going to leave with amounts ranging from P1 500 and P3 000.
The retrenchment letter states that: You will consequently be paid your basic salary, one month notice pay, leave pay and any severance benefits due.”
While they are aware of the fact that their employer’s business deteriorated following the closure of the projects they were conducting in Orapa, they feel the retrenchment is unfair as there are some steps they feel the management has overlooked.
The reasons for retrenchment are explained as thus in the letter: “The current financial crisis that has affected Botswana and other countries as well as the closure of some Debswana mines resulted in an indefinite suspension of projects and we are now experiencing various projects coming to an end with no immediate project in sight.
“These factors are forcing DWD Drilling Technologies to take measures and after the consultations held on various sites and departments in early March 2017 (during which all staff members were requested to submit any alternative solution for the current situation without any response or feedback) with all DWD staff, DWD has initiated several measures to avoid or minimise retrenchment…”
Head of Human Resources Department, G. Venter, who signed the letter, referred this publication to the company’s Director, Hentie de Wet, who said that company had gone through all the steps necessary in the retrenchment process.
“The Trade Dispute Act is available for them to use if they are aggrieved. We have records of how we consulted with our staff. The Commissioner of Labour has given the company a go-ahead with retrenchment. Even the packages have been done properly. Everyone got their severance benefits,” said De Wet.
He said that work in hand can’t sustain the current employee force. Most of the citizen owned drilling companies are also complaining about the fact that Section 12 of the Mines and Mineral Act is not followed. The Act stipulates that preference must be given to Batswana owned companies.
A unionist who represented the union at the Commissioner of Labour, Abel Buka, explained that since April last year, the management of DWD Drilling Technologies did not recognise their union.
In March this year they met and they were unofficially recognised.
“We then met with the mediators and informed them that the management did not want to formalise their recognition. We were to wait until April 14 for their response. Unfortunately on the 18th employees informed us of the retrenchments,” he explained.
The union met with the management on April 21 and another meeting is scheduled for next week Tuesday (May 3).