Francistown Centre for the Deaf has fired 13 of its employees for allegedly raising their complaints over the bad working conditions at the institution. Last week the dismissed employees who worked as caretakers for 66 disabled children at the institution told The Telegraph in an interview that the management decided to fire them after their request to be paid money for overtime.
One of the fired employees, Boitshepo Gunda who has been working at the institution for 10 years said that the management of the institution is oppressive and never takes heed of employee grievances.
Their complaints range from nonpayment for overtime and lack of insurance policies. In addition, the institution does not have HIV/Aids programmes in place for its employees.
“In our employment letter, there is no mention of overtime; but we are forced to work overtime even during public holidays. We are not paid for the overtime work. We even work on public holidays. We also do not have insurance policies and there are no health programmes for employees particularly HIV/Aids policies for employees. Employees are demoralised at the institution because management does not value them. We have tried in vain to raise these issues with management but failed. This has been happening for years,” said Gunda.
The employees pointed a blaming finger at the Board Director of Botswana Society for the Deaf (BSD), Bahurutshe Roy Letsatsi and Executive Director, Orapeleng Mokgosi for being uncooperative and cruel to employees. They said that after several failed efforts of trying to bargain with them over the grievances, they ended up reporting the issue to the Department of Labour in Francistown in May 2014.
“The Department of Labour then carried an inspection at the institution and found that our rights were being trampled upon by the management and recommendations were made. The management even agreed and accepted blame,” said the employees.
The Telegraph is in possession of a Labour Inspection Report written to the management dated 30 May, 2014.
Part of the report states┬á “Some employees complained that their employer makes them work more hours than normal working hours in a day (11.5 hours per day) and the employer did not dispute that but rather said, she once increased┬á their salary by 3% some years back trying to compensate for excess hours worked. She went on to say that she wants to hire more staff so as to avoid or minimise making employees working overtime. Section 95(5) states that” If an employee is required to work in any day more than the number of hours in the ordinary daily working period, the number of hours so worked in excess shall be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to be overtime, and the employee shall be paid for such overtime and one and half times the wages he would have been paid had the time worked not been overtime” said the report.
Among some of the important issues, the Labour Department suggested in the report that it is important for the institution to recognise HIV/Aids as a workplace issue.
“There is yet a lot to be done in terms of battling HIV/Aids scourge. Employees should be regularly imparted with awareness on HIV/Aids by having educational programmes as well as being trained as peer educators and counselors,” reads part of the Labour Department report. The report further recommended that the employees should have insurance policies.
“According to Workers Compensation Act, Section 31(4) states that any employer who fails to insure or keep himself insured as required by this section shall be guilty of an offence and be liable to a fine not exceeding P5 000 or to imprisonment to a term not exceeding three years or both,” reads the report.
However the expelled employees said that after the labour inspection report, the management assured them and the Labour Department that it will not contravene any of the labour regulations. The employees were shocked that management then turned around and refused to honour its promises.
The Telegraph has it on good authority that some of the employees were called for disciplinary hearing on the 11th of September 2014 after refusing to work overtime.
“We refused to work because the management refused to honour the recommendations made by the Labour Department,” said the employees.
They said that they were only shocked on the 21st of October 2014 when they received dismissal letters stating that they refused to carry duties as expected of them.
“As we speak, the management has already employed temporary employees on our behalf. We were all expelled because we refused to work overtime without being paid. There is a lot of issues happening at that institution. We have taken this matter back to the Labour Department and hearing will be on the 2nd of December 2014,” said the aggrieved employees.
Reached for comment, the Executive Director of the Botswana Society for the Deaf (BSD), Mokgosi referred The Telegraph to the BSD Board Chairperson, Bahurutshe Roy Letsatsi.
He could also not comment saying that the employees were fired because they contravened some regulations. He however refused to state the violated regulations. He said that the employees are in a better position to explain to this publication which regulations they contravened.
“They are in a better position to explain to you what regulations they contravened leading to their dismissal. I also learnt from one journalist that the matter is already before the courts. We have not been furnished with any papers, therefore I cannot comment about anything for now,” he said before hanging up.