Saturday, September 19, 2020

Gov’t Vs Trade Unions: Case halted

By Khonani Ontebetse

The Francistown Industrial Court Judge Galesite Baruti has temporarily halted Government’s decision to derecognise public sector trade unions. Following a decision by the government to derecognise public sector unions, the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) approached the court to have the decision set aside.

The case could not be heard because the government legal advisors requested that the matter be postponed to a later date.

According to a court order seen by The Telegraph, the government was temporarily (through a rule nisi) interdicted and restrained from giving effect to its letters dated 16 October 2018 addressed to the unions, with the heading “Compliance with Section 46 of the Public Service Act.” The letter in question derecognised public sector unions.

The Government in its capacity as the employer was directed to continue recognizing trade unions and was also ordered to extend to them all the rights of a trade union recognized by the Government of Botswana, and in particular the right to lawfully bargain with the Government over the conclusion of an agreement on a constitution of the Public Service Bargaining Council in the manner contemplated under section 51(1) Public Service Act, 2008 (“the PSA”).

The temporary court order also states that the rights and obligations of the unions’ will also apply in full pending the final outcome of an application they are to file  for the review and setting aside of the decision of Government communicated to the unions by letters of 16 October 2018.

The unions also want the court to rule in their favour by among others declaring that they are not required to secure recognition under section 46 of the PSA for them to enjoy the rights under section 51(1) of the PSA or those set out in the public sector unions’ recognition agreements.

The unions had accused the government of acting in bad faith when it took a decision to derecognize them.

“The attitude that you have displayed does not augur well for the relationship of the parties going forward. It also puts into doubt the question whether we are entitled to continue to enjoy other rights that flow from the recognition,” the letter addressed to government reads in part.

They further stated “All the unions are duly recognised by the government as exclusive bargaining agents for their members. They have been so recognised for at least the last 12 years and in some instances for over 40 years.”  The four trade unions who are members of BOFEPUSU are Botswana Landlords and Local Authorities and Health Workers’ Union, Botswana Sectors of Educators’ Trade Union, Botswana Teachers Union and The National Amalgamated Local Central and Parastatal Workers’ Union.

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