Industrial Court judge, Tebogo Maruping, on Friday issued an order declaring that the impending or implementation of restructuring by Botswana Postal Services was unlawful, null and void and should be suspended pending outcome of negotiations between itself and Botswana Postal Workers Union.
He also declared that the impending restructuring of the BPS was done without proper consultation and in breach of the recognition agreement signed between the parties.
Judge Maruping also directed BPS to go back to the negotiating table and enter into negotiations in good faith with the Union about restructuring BPS.
The judge also compelled BPS to avail the Union with all the recommendations of the proposed organizational and pay structure made by consultants and permit the Union sufficient opportunity to study the recommendations and take an informed position in respect to the issue.
Earlier on, the lawyer representing the Union, Rodgers Seabueng, had submitted that BPS’s conduct in implementing decisions relating to its restructuring without consultation or negotiating with the Union is unlawful and a breach of recognition agreement with the applicant at all stages of the restructuring process before taking decisions.
Further to that, BPS management has, on several occasions, refused to avail to the Union recommendations of the proposed organizational and pay structure made by the consultants and to give the Union time to study the recommendations and make informed positions on them.
After a long time, he submitted that the union was given some extractions of the recommendations by the consultants on the 11 of November 2008.
The extras did not adequately inform them, as such, the Union went back to the BPS and demanded to be given the whole report but that BPS refused to do so and the matter was then referred to the labour office for mediation on the 1 of December, 2008. The mediator, he submitted after listening to both sides of the story on 14, January, 2009 recommended that the parties have to meet on their own first so that they agree then negotiate.
The BPS, he submitted, did not heed this but continued to take steps relating to restructuring without engaging the Union in any meaningful negotiations by issuing memorandums on matters which the Union should have been involved in.
Then on the 5th of February, he submitted that BPS issued a letter stating that the recommendations have been approved by the Board.
This, he submitted, surprised the Union because they had not seen what those recommendations are, how they will affect their members and the Union had not seen the final approved structure which BPS wants to implement.
BPS, he submitted, had trampled on the rights of its employees enough and should not be allowed to continue doing so and that the Union was willing to go to the negotiating table and has always done so.
Opposing the application, Doctor Pusoentsi submitted that there was nothing that warrants that this matter should be brought as an urgent application.
He also submitted that it was not true that any agreement had been made without the input of the Union adding that employees were only updated on the process of the restructuring process and that no decision was made without the involvement of Molefe Lesole, its chairman. He said Molefe was part and parcel of the restructuring team and that he had participated in all the meetings relating to the process, adding that the allegations of bad faith in negotiating were unsubstantiated.
He said that consultations were still on going and that they can not implement anything without giving the Commissioner of Labour and employees notice in terms of Employment Act.
Less than a month ago, Maruping’s colleague, judge Janie de Villers, issued a similar ruling in a case in which the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) had wanted to negotiate restructuring without the involvement of the Union.
The BTC has also had a similar case with the unions in the past.