The National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union punched the air on Friday after an Industrial Court judge put sudden brakes on Botswana Power Corporation (BPC)’s planned “early exit retrenchment scheme” until the matter is fully heard.
The financially embattled BPC had wanted to roll-out the early retirement scheme without consulting the employees’ trade union.
The Secretary General of the Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union, Johnson Motswarakgole, said Friday that the temporary order issued by Judge Davie Devallers is an indication that they “will achieve what they have set out looking for, which is to have a say in the future of the members whom the BPC wants to exit under the early retirement scheme”.
“This is a clear signal to us that we will achieve what we have set out looking for which is to represent our members,” he said.
Motshwarakgole also said that their confidence is bolstered by the fact that some six years ago they won a similar case against the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation when it wanted to decide the future of their members on their own, excluding them. “The fact that this case is similar to the one we stood against BTC and won boasts our morale that we will win,” he said .
The order follows after Tshiamo Rantao, representing the Union, had filed an application asking the Court for the following reliefs:
* an order declaring that BPC purported withdrawal of the Union’s work place recognition is null and void
* a declaration that the Union is entitled to the enjoyment of all organizational rights to which a recognized trade union is entitled in terms of the Trade Union and Employees Organisation Act.
“This is a declaration that the respondent is in breach of its duty to bargain in good faith or to consult meaningfully by unilaterally implementing terms of an early exit scheme with respect to the membership,” Rantao had submitted.
He said the BPC need to recognized the right of the trade union as the representatives of the BPC employees and can not unilaterally shift the goals after they were told that they can not de-recognise the trade union by going ahead with the scheme after they were warned by the Labour Commissioner against that.
“BPC has to know that the interests of its employees cannot be negotiated by employer alone but with the Union, which is the legitimate representative of employees,” Rantao said, adding that “BPC could not be allowed to continue with its unlawful act of derecognizing the trade union. This is illegal.”
However, BPC lawyer, Chale Manyepeza, said that there was no need for the trade union’s lawyers to have brought the action as an urgent application as the action being taken is, in reality, a voluntary act which will only affect employees aged between 49-59 years old.
He said it was wrong to say that the affected employees will suffer if the exercise goes ahead, adding that it has not yet been established or explained what the alleged harm would be.