Friday, September 25, 2020

Government, unions differ on civil servants’ retrenchment package

Government has already started discussing retrenchment packages for civil servants with workers’ unions.
Although government last week issued statements insisting that there are no plans to retrench civil servants, the Sunday Standard can reveal that the government has already initiated consultations with the Botswana Union of Civil Servants Associations (BUCSA), now known as the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government, General and Manual Workers Union (NALCGGMWU).

Johnson Motshwarakgole , National Organizing Secretary of the Manual Workers Union confirmed that, “it is true that we were engaged in negotiations with the Government on the issue of retrenchments for sometime, including around the period under discussion. However, the discussions were not concluded as the Government insisted on involuntary retrenchment package being equal with voluntary exit package.” Motshwarakgole said other issues on which they differed with the employer included relocation expenses and separation pay.

“The Government wanted 30 days paid for every year served, whereas we wanted 50 days.” said Motshwarakgole.

Sunday Standard investigations also revealed that consultations have already been concluded with the Manual Workers Union. However, the Management side and the Union side of the National Joint Industrial Coordinating Committee (NJICC) agreed to disagree on Notice Pay, Gratuity and, Transport and Relocation Expenses. It was then decided by Government thus: “It is intended that the Policy will be available to the Industrial Class employees even if they disagree because the current provision on redundancy in the Regulations for Industrial Employees (RIE) provides lower incentives.”

Andrew Motsamai, President of BOPEU, confirmed in an interview, “Indeed it has always been a question of time. As to whether or not retrenchment will come, we never harboured any illusion.”
Motsamai said, “One of the issues that we raised at the time was that 35% of employees are people within the age range of 40 and above, and would therefore readily incline if the Government dangled the early exit package.”

He said he still recalls vividly well, that the Manual Workers Union pushed for the idea of the voluntary package being higher than the involuntary; whilst the Government was at the time adamant that the retrenchment should be purely involuntary. “However, concerning the precise reason why it took so long to get back to us, I don’t know.”

Motsamai said it is against this background that he understands the issue of “downsizing the public service and a progressive reduction in the total Public Service establishment by means of attrition and or early exit incentive scheme with a view right sizing the public service, within three years”, as contained in the white paper presented to parliament earlier this month.
President Festus Mogae’s speech in his State of the Nation Address, last November, highlighted the urgency of retrenchments when he said, “…If we delay the process of privatization of Public enterprises….we will be doing ourselves a great disservice. Whilst Privatization will, at times, entail short term costs, such as retrenchments, we must not be oblivious to its long term benefits in terms of efficiency, sustainable employment, as well as higher quality services”

A clause giving the background of the Public Service Early Exit Policy, in the confidential document leaked to The Sunday Standard, reads: “Cabinet granted authority for negotiations of the Public Service Early Exit Policy with the Manual Workers Union, through Presidential Directive Cab 15(b)/2003 dated 6th May 2003, in order to fulfill requirements of the collective agreement between Government and the Union.”
The document on the planned government retrenchment states that, “Government through Mid Term Review of NDP8, articulated the intension to ‘right size’ the Public Service through Privatization, introduction of voluntary and early retirement schemes and wastage without replacement in areas considered not critical.”

In addition, Motshwarakgole said, “As far as we are concerned the employer still has to come back to us.”

According to the Cabinet Memorandum on the planned retrenchment, the Botswana public serve retrenchment was benchmarked against that of the Public Service of Tanzania and organizations in Botswana, that include the Bank of Botswana, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation and Botswana Housing Corporation. The Botswana Water Utilities Corporation and the Botswana Railways are also part of the list of organizations that were targeted to learn from in respect of the best way to retrench.

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