Motiganz Botswana (PTY) LTD, a subsidiary of Motiganz Diamond Trading Company Sight holder has resolved to retrench employees. Of the 211 employees who worked as Diamond Polishers, 171 have been served with letters of retrenchment, and only 33 Batswana and seven foreigners remain, a retrenched employee, who did not want to be named, said.
The workers, who received letters of retrenchment on the 11th November, have since been told to stay home until 28thNovember, 2014 when they will probably get their November salaries.
The retrenchment letters indicate that each of the retrenched would go away with a package of half salary for the final month of November, 15 days leave and severance pay.
“Since we received letters of retrenchments we have just been sitting there at the work place without doing anything. Our bosses then decided that they send us home until on the 28th when we will probably being paid for the month of November. Package will be payable on the 15th December. We are going to receive only half leave days because, according to them, we signed contract that stipulates that we do not have leave days,” she said.
For leave, she said the company has been granting them off days from the 12th December to the 12th or thereabouts of January the following year. She has worked for the company for seven years.
She explained that after their employment they were given letters which they were reluctant to sign. They therefore asked for the Botswana Diamond Workers Union’s opinion. They waited for a long time before a Union representative came and advised that they could sign the letters as there was no harm in doing so.
“When we received the retrenchment letters and were awoken to the reality that the contents of the letter we signed at the beginning of our employment had committed us to working without leave we asked another Unionist who said we should not have signed the letter. But it is too late,” she said.
She added that the company had always been against them joining unions and instead insisting that they have their own in-house mediating team that would be responsible for addressing their grievances if they arise.
“To show their seriousness about the matter, anyone who was found by the management to be vocal about union was fired forthwith. In the long run people feared to be expelled from work and did not attend meetings to hear messages from the union. I was in the Union committee and by the time we stopped attending meetings there were only two of us, Union members left,” said the employee. They did not officially quit the BDWU because their committee was dysfunctional.
Efforts to reach the man responsible for Human Resources at the company, Clifford Mogomotsi were futile. He was always out of office when we tried to reach him for comment through landline. Friday afternoon there was no response to the switchboard line. Neither was there response to his mobile phone.
The Chairperson for the Diamond Workers Union Modiri Keseabetswe said that Motiganz employees had withdrawn from the union without giving any communications.
“We were not at all aware of the fact that there were those of them who were victimized for unionizing. It could perhaps be that they were victimized but it also might not. Even those who are members are having trouble with management. There is no management that likes unions. They always discourage their members to join unions. Because of the long period in which they silently withdrew from the union we do not know the representative they say advised them to sign those letters,” explained Keseabetswe.
He said they as a union however, are concerned about diamond workers irrespective of their membership. They thus will make follow-up on the case of the Motiganz employees and see how they can help.
Batlhalefi Basonoko (40) who has been retrenched says she has been working in the diamond cutting and polishing industry for literally half her life. “I have been in this business for twenty years,” she told Sunday Standard.
“I worked thirteen years at Leo Schachter Botswana (also a diamond company) in Molepolole,”Basonoko said.
She said while at Leo Schachter she was invited by Motiganz Botswana Human Resource (HR) Manager, Clifford Mogomotsi, to come and work for him.
“As we speak I have been with Motiganz for seven years now.” Basonoko said they have been informed the retrenchments were done on a first-in-last-out basis. “But what has transpired does not reflect what the management has told us.
There are people who have been here for a shorter period of time but they are not leaving.”
Basonoko said she felt hard done by the decision to let her go considering not just her two decade experience but also the nature of her recruitment. “He (Mogomotsi) is the one who recruited me from my previous job and I expected some reasonable level of fairness when dealing with my case,” the disgruntled Basonoko said.
She said she had stuck with the company for so many years despite the remuneration not being commensurate with her experience.
Tebogo Mogampane (26) has also been informed of her impending departure. “I have been working here for four years now,” she said. She said ever since the death of the company director, Mordehay Dayan, Motiganz Botswana has been experiencing problems. “Everything just fell apart,” she said.
“We would just come to work and do nothing because there were no more diamonds to cut or polish.”
The two women accuse the HR manager, Mogomotsi, of blacklisting them on other diamond cutting and polishing companies.
“Everywhere we go seeking for employment we are told they have been warned not to hire us,” she said.
Motiganz Botswana has in the past made news when some of their staff members accused management for ill-treatment, sexual abuse and unfair dismissals.
The late Director, Dayan, and Mogomotsi, were also arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and detained overnight at Broadhurst Police Station. The trio, including a BPC employee, were charged with stealing power from a BPC source. Dayan, an Israeli national, has since died.