Thousands of civil servants find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place as the government dangles a salary increase outside the structure of collective bargaining and an announcement by their unions that they will approach the courts to stop such a decision from being implemented.
The Telegraph investigations have unearthed information suggesting that the government intends to use the impending recommendations of a task team that was hired to look into conditions of service to bypass the Bargaining Council and adjust public servants salaries.┬á
In what is seen a strategic political tool by the government, the recommendations from the task team will be made public after the budget speech to coincide with preparations for the general elections.
Sources within the government enclave say that the salary increase would be made outside the structures of collective bargaining to deliberately discredit the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BUFEUSU). This is aimed at causing divisions among the unions’ members as to whether to accept the salary increase offered by government or accept a legitimate one that comes about as a result of negotiation between the government and BOFEPUSU. ┬á
The move is also aimed at neutralising BOFEPUSU which has been making what the government believes are political statements ahead of 2014 general elections.
The reports ┬ácorroborate the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) Cater Morupisi’s earlier statement in an interview with The Telegraph’s sister publication Sunday Standard that as a result of the ongoing consultancy on conditions for civil servants, the government was not in a position to submit a counter proposal for 2013/14 salary negotiations.
“The Government is undertaking a consultancy on the review of conditions of service for public servants so that we can be informed through submissions from civil servants as individuals or as a group stated Morupisi at the time.┬á
According to information reaching this publication, after appearing before a mediator, the government last week confidently lulled BOFEPUSU into thinking things were somehow going to work out and requested that the latter withdraws 2013/2014 salary talks mediation and that the parties should go back to the negotiating table.
BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari, confirmed that it was not a secret that the negotiators from the employer’s side have told them about the consultancy that is looking into the conditions for civil servants.
“Yes it is true; at the Bargaining Council we were told that there is a task team assessing the conditions for civil servants,” he said.
Rari added that, “We don’t have a problem with government forming a task team to look into the conditions of employees, but we will have a problem if the government adjusts salaries without following due process.”
He added that they don’t also expect government to make an announcement during the budget speech to be delivered by Minister of Finance Kenneth Matambo early February this year.
“Bu we expect government to set aside something so that when we negotiate we are not told that there is no money for salary adjustments,” he said. He added that they had been accused of being militant by government but in their last meeting following a dispute over salary talks, they compromised and allowed to meet government without a mediator as per the latter’s request.
“However, what you have to note is that we have not withdrawn from the mediation process completely; it is in place so that when we hit a snag we can have something to fall back on, “he said adding that they will meet government negotiators at the Bargaining Council on 22 January this week to map the way forward.
Should the government announce salary outside the structures of the Bargaining Council, Rari added, it would set a bad precedence and legitimize reports that it does not recognise the Bargaining Council.
“Should the government make such an unilateral decision, we will approach the courts to stop that from being implemented. We will not be rejecting salary increment per se but righting the wrong,” he said.
On growing speculation that their members are likely to be divided between the government and unions, in the event the former adjust salaries without following due process, Rari said they don’t expect that because their members are familiar with the law.
“At the same time I can’t deny that may feel that we are denying them increment in a way, but we will address them on that issue as we tour our structures countrywide.┬á Some of the members that I have met individually say that we should not allow desperation to prevail despite the fact that their salaries have been eroded as a result of going for six years without increment,” said Rari.
The Bargaining Council, whose mandate is to advise government on the remuneration of civil servants, comprises representatives of the government and those of the public service trade union., The Bargaining Council whose legitimacy and efficacy is questionable was set up at the tune of P8 million; contributions were┬á from BOFEPUSU and government.