Friday, March 1, 2024

Public sector unions lose industrial court tussle

An attempt by two public sector trade unions, Botswana Government Workers Union (BOGOWU) and Tertiary and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), to have the constitution of the Public Service Bargaining Council nullified suffered a debilitating blow before the Industrial court on Wednesday.

Industrial Court Judge president Tebogo Maruping dismissed the application brought by the two unions after finding that there are no reasonable prospects of success in the matter given the circumstances of the case.

The judge said the two unions failed to show good cause for why their long delay in complying with the terms of an earlier consent order should be condoned.

TAWU and BOGOWU had applied to court to have the constitution of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) nullified. They argued that the conduct of the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) of proceeding with the process of adoption of the PSBC constitution to their exclusion amounts to bargaining in bad faith and is consequently unlawful. The two further said the signed constitution of PSBC is unlawful and of no force and effect.

The case was first filed in court in November 2010 but in January 2011 the two unions filed an amended notice of motion. After hearing the case in February 2011 the parties agreed in a consent order on dates to file papers before court for the matter to be set down.

Although government lawyers filed in February 2012 it was only after 63 days that the two unions filed theirs without explaining the delay. In the consent order they should have filed in seven days.

The court concluded that the two unions had failed to show good cause for the unreasonable delay. Court further ruled that the application by the two unions had failed to comply with the state proceedings act.

In a rare show of unity strange bedfellows Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the employer (government) fought from the same corner.

Lawyers representing the five trade unions under BOFEPUSU argued that the delay is prejudicial to them. Edward Tswaipe of TAWU had argued that an acrimonious relationship exists between the union parties.

He also argued that the other five trade unions want to use the bargaining council to render the latter’s bargaining power with government impotent.

BOGOWU is a breakaway of NALCGPWU, commonly known as manual workers union. The long standing rivalry between TAWU and BOGOWU on one hand and BOFEPUSU trade unions on the other was exacerbated by the exclusion of the two during the formation of UNIGEM, an investment company of the latter. The five trade unions in BOFEPUSU are said to have deliberately set the contribution to start-up capital per trade union too high for the two who now remain excluded from the multimillion pula company.


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