Government might find itself battling to quell another public sector strike if salary negotiations with public servants who are currently not on strike do not yield results.
The Tertiary and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and Botswana Government Workers Union (BOGOWU), acting under the auspices of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), last week filed an urgent application with the Industrial Court, accusing government of acting in bad faith and sidelining them in wage negotiations with the rival Botswana Federation of Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEPUSU).
TAWU and BOGOWU do not see eye to eye with BOFEPUSU. When the latter launched the mother of all strikes, the two resolved not to strike and instead launched parallel salary negotiations with government. However, government has in the past excluded the two from the national bargaining council. TAWU and BOGOWU have since launched a lawsuit challenging the decision.
In his founding affidavit, the Vice President of TAWU, Edward Tswaipe, accused government of marginalizing and excluding them from the salary negotiation process, despite the fact that they are recognized public sector unions. TAWU and BOGOWU have also raised concerns that government is dragging her feet in salary negotiations.
“Government has been holding parallel negotiations with BOFEPUSU and has abandoned negotiations with TAWU and BOGOWU. Parallel negotiations with BOFEPUSU have stalled negotiations TAWU and BOGOWU and might result in the two losing out on salary negotiations this year,” said Tswaipe.
He added that they agreed with government that negotiations would be restricted to the financial term 2011/2012, which attested to the urgency of the matter as the negotiating parties had to work within a fixed time frame.
However, said TAWU and BOGOWU, the breakthrough in negotiations has been tragic as government has continuously ignored their requests for information relevant to negotiations for the collective bargaining process.
“The information requested is easily within reach. Government is not negotiating in good faith, and all what she wants to do is to manage TAWU and BOGOWU out of the current crisis brought about by the BOFEPUSU strike. Government is just fooling TAWU and BOGOWU into inaction and has no intention of holding meaningful negotiations,” said Tswaipe.
TAWU and BOGOWU are also concerned that the aftermath of the ongoing BOFEPUSU strike could prefix the outcome of their negotiations, leaving them with little or no latitude for bargaining.
“Government would then force feed us the outcome of their negotiations with BOFEPUSU. It is therefore important to seek a declaration that the results of government’s negotiations with BOFEPUSU should not in any way apply to us,” said Tswaipe.
He added that the matter is urgent because the salary negotiations issue is topical and very current, and failure to resolve it might render the whole process futile as it may be overtaken by events.
“The result would be that while members of BOFEPUSU receive salary increments, TAWU and BOGOWU would miss out on a full year of the same. We will not sit on our rights until damage is done. We are therefore seeking protection before the courts,” said Tswaipe.