Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Nervous BTC employees fear imminent job losses

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) employees are apprehensive that their jobs could be on the line as the corporation embarks on a restructuring exercise ahead of privatisation.

BTC spokesperson Golekanye Molapisi says the exercise, dubbed the Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC), is aimed at transforming the wholly government owned parastatal into a fixed mobile converged telecommunications service provider in the country that has the access and capability to combine mobile, fixed and broadband products into attractive packages.

However, concerned employees, who fear potential job losses during implementation of the exercise that is being spearheaded by General Manager (Support Services and Human Relations) Joy-Marie Marebole, are adamant that the restructuring is a disguised form of retrenchment that will result in some of them leaving the corporation empty handed.

“It is clear that this is a disguised retrenchment which will culminate in some of us losing their jobs without an exit package. This is not the first time that Marebole has embarked on a similar exercise. A few years ago she did the same at Barclays Bank of Botswana where she fired a lot of people under guise of non-performance. We are aware that she has the propensity to save organisations money and earn herself huge bonuses and respect,” said a concerned manager whose identity cannot be revealed for fear of potential victimisation.

“We suspect that she wants to do the same here. Why is she embarking on this exercise now while the organisation is being prepared for privatisation? There is more than meets the eye in this exercise. We (employees) will lose big time while BTC saves millions of Pula that would otherwise┬ábe paid as redundancy packages. BTC board and parliament must intervene and stop this sordid exercise which is destined to impoverish and leave us out of employment”.

Another anxious employee concurred that this is a well orchestrated scheme to downsize the current staff compliment without spending a single dime. “It is very worrisome that the corporation is embarking on this exercise while government is busy preparing it for privatisation. This is not the first time that BTC is retrenching. This will be the third retrenchment in a decade. If we do not wise up and seek legal injunction, we will no doubt leave the corporation empty handed. We must fight aggressively to get exit packages”, said the worried employee.

Another employee explained that the exercise is targeting clerical employees and technicians at Band 5 who number almost 400. “These are the people who have been deprived of their union rights because they are classified as managers although they are not performing managerial duties. Because they are not unionized, they do not have a strong single voice. Band 6 and upwards employees will be appointed directly without applying and getting interviewed like employees at Band 5. What will happen to those employees who will not be absorbed by the new structure? They will obviously be shown the door. The excuse will be clear that there are no available vacancies hence the need to eject them from the corporation. Some have been with the organization for quite a long time and it is sad that they will leave empty handed”, lamented the apprehensive employee. ┬á

Molapisi has, however, maintained that no employee stands to lose his job during the FMC exercise. But judging from the language employed in his response, there is no guarantee that all employees will be absorbed by the new structure.

Molapisi said “all employees can be absorbed into the new structure. The accelerating change or operational readiness transition plan is about having the right people with the requisite competencies at the right places to efficiently serve our customers. In essence employees will be deployed to areas where their skills are more relevant resulting in specialisation”.

Allaying fears that some employees could be laid off in the process, Molapisi said the number of positions in the “to be” structure is higher than the current BTC staff compliment which means there are more opportunities.

He maintained that the exercise is not a retrenchment but rather a business transformation exercise.
Quizzed on the corporation’s privatisation process, he said the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) is driving the process which is currently going through the final stages of asset separation.

“The exercise is not in any way related to privatisation. It is a strategy to deliver to customer expectation while at the same time maintaining a profitable business environment”, said Molapisi adding that it was sanctioned by the BTC board.

As this is not a retrenchment exercise, Molapisi said the corporation has not set aside any budget as all employees can be absorbed into the new structure, a view that completely contrasts that of the employees.

On the exercise’s transparency, he said it is very transparent as input from employees is taken on board. “Extensive consultations with staff and unions have been undertaken and regular updates continue”, said the BTC spokesperson.

He also said pre counseling and post counseling has been provided and is still on-going.
The restructuring exercise is expected to be complete by next Wednesday.

PEEPA chief executive officer, Kgotla Ramaphane, confirmed that his agency is aware of the restructuring exercise which is being done as part of the corporation’s strategic plan. “It is being done parallel to the privatisation process”, said Ramaphane adding that he does not anticipate the exercise to interfere with the privatisation process.

“If it does, we will obviously confer with BTC and chart a way forward”, said Ramaphane.
The restructuring exercise will affect employees at the main corporation and its subsidiaries of be-Mobile and Botsnet.

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