Attorneys acting for the Public Service Industrial Class Employees’ Union (NALCAMAWU) have served the Attorney General with statutory notice of intention to sue Government for what they termed unilateral variation of conditions of service. This followed the employees’ receipt of a directive dated 27th March 2008 from the Ministry of Local Government’s Permanent Secretary, purporting to suspend or freeze implementation of new grades.
According to correspondence passed to The Sunday Standard, government has been granted latitude of 30 days to respond, failing which the union has threatened to take the matter further. The letter reads in part, “Our instructions are, therefore, to demand, as we hereby do, that the said directive be retracted and our clients be consulted. It is only fair to do that.”
The particulars of the case are that during the year 2007, following extensive consultations between the unions on behalf of employees on the one hand and the government as (the employer) on the other, an agreement was reached to upgrade the salary scales of their members (union). Approved grades by the various Job Evaluation panels were availed to them and signed by all the stakeholders for implementation.
Investigations conducted by Sunday Standard further reveal that a circular savingram referenced U/1/22 VI (30) dated September 2007 providing guidelines on the implementation of the approved local authorities structure was issued, addressed to all heads of local Authorities.
According to the circular, the Authorities were to submit to the Ministry their proposal on how they plan to implement the regrading of the affected scales.
Johnson Motshwarakgole, spokesperson for the manual workers union, said that it is utterly inconceivable that a matter as serious, and having a bearing on the welfare of the families of the most vital workforce in the pubic service, should be handled as casually as such.
Motshwarakgole said that “if the Government cannot see the importance of reverting to us before changing what has been mutually arrived at then the law would have to take its course.”
To this effect, the unions’ attorney has sent a loud and clear message to the authorities thus, “Should we not hear from you within 30 days from today (16th April) we hold instructions to approach the court for relief.
The affected positions are crafts improver, I labourer III, Boat Driver and Ambulance Drivers. Public health Attendants III and receptionists have not been spared denial of an increase too.
The government has lately been embattled with cries of unfair remuneration of its employees across the broad spectrum of professions, following the release of the white paper on salaries review and the scare skills allowances.
The union has expressed dismay and anger at the Government’s go-it-alone attitude, despite the fact that they were initially consulted and involved with the process that came out with the new grades.
Their lawyers, Modimo and Associates, said “…… the decision amounts to a unilateral variation of conditions of service which is unlawful. It is not clear yet whether the government plans to defend in the matter. It is not the first time the government decided to renege on positions it had collectively arrived at with the unions previously reached with the union.
A recent example is the cancellation of the leave travel concession, which was extensively consulted on in the past two years and reintroduced in amended form for the first time last year, only to be omitted from the white paper this year.
However, the unions managed to put a brave face and got it back after querying it with Kwelagobe.
Asked to say what the status of the case is, Abigail Hlabano, spokesperson for the AGC said, “The AGC is handling the matter and have sought instructions of the relevant ministries.”
She said that whether they are going to defend in the matter is an issue still to be determined, and that not much can be said at this point in time “as there is only one version we still have to hear from the other party.”