The Botswana Communication Workers Union (BOCOWU) has accused leading mobile phone operator Mascom Wireless of union bashing. This comes after Mascom fired the Union’s Secretary General Eitlhopha Mokeresete and summoned the Union Chairman, Joe Serema for a disciplinary hearing.
The union charged this week that this is a calculated move to beat them into silence. Serema was summoned for a disciplinary hearing, two days after the union served Mascom with court papers challenging management’s decision to withhold subscriptions from Band 5 employees who make a section of union members.
This comes at a time when the union is pressing for a salary increase that Mascom has dismissed as ‘’unreasonable”. The salary dispute is part of a litany of issues separating the union and management. The union and management are also squaring off over full medical aid cover and an increase in cell phone and data allowance.
BOCOWU lawyers, Motswagole and Company have approached the High Court to order against Mascom’s decision to “exclude employees in Band 5 from union membership in terms of Section 48 of the Trade Union and Employers Organisations Act”.
According to the Section, “a ‘member of management’ means an employee who ÔÇô (a) has authority , on behalf of his employer, to employ, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, terminate the employment of, reward, discipline or deal with the grievances relating o the employment of any employees or effectively to recommend any such action or the manner in which such grievances ought to be dealt with, if the exercise by him of that authority is not merely of a routine or clerical nature but requires the use of his discretion; (b) participates in the making of a general policy regarding relations between his employer and his fellow employees or any of them; or (c) is employed in a capacity that requires him to have full knowledge of the financial position of the undertaking or enterprise in which he is employed or gives him free personal access to other confidential information relating to the conduct of his employer’s business.”
The Union argues that this does not describe their Band 5 members. They are challenging Mascom’s decision to exclude deductions for these members of the union as unlawful and want the court to set it aside. The Union also wants the court to order Mascom to facilitate the deduction of subscriptions of employees at Band 5 with immediate effect. Sunday Standard is in possession of an affidavit, in which Serema avers that sometime in the month of June 2015, he along with a group of employees of Mascom, having found the need to have a common body which represents the interests of employees, formed a union which was duly recognised by Mascom in November 2015. BOCOWU’s argument is that Band 5 employees have never been considered part of management as they are not part of decision-makers in the organisation.
Mascom lawyers, Collins Newman & Co, have notified BOCUWU’s lawyers of their intention to oppose, and will be filing opposing papers in the next 14 days.
BOCOWU, which is an affiliate of BOFEPUSU, has already approached BOFEPUSU to intervene. BOFEPUSU has written to Mascom CEO asking for a meeting to discuss union grievances.