Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Public sector unions win temporary reprieve

By The Telegraph Reporter

The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) has been interdicted from de-recognizing public service unions pursuant to its letter of October 16, 2018.

In the letter DPSM had resolved that the unions were not entitled to continued recognition in terms of the Public Service Act (PSA).

The interim interdict was granted by Francistown Industrial Court judge Galesite Baruti who ordered that DPSM is interdicted and restrained from giving effect to its letters dated 16th October 2018 addressed to the public sector unions with the heading “Compliance with Section 46 of the Public Service Act”.

Judge Baruti also made an order directing the Government of Botswana, in its capacity as the employer to continue recognizing the public sector unions as trade unions and thereby extend to them (unions) all the rights of trade union recognized by the government of Botswana, and in particular the right to lawfully bargain with the government over the conclusion of an agreement on a constitution of the Public Service Bargaining Council in the manner contemplated under section 51 (1) of the Public Service Act of 2008.

The court further ruled that the public sector unions’ rights shall apply in full pending the final outcome of an application to be filed by the unions for the review and setting aside of the DPSM decision as communicated to the unions by letters of October 16, 2018.

The Industrial Court also declared that the unions are not required to secure recognition under section 46 of the PSA for them to enjoy the rights under section 51 (1) of the PSA or those set out in the respective unions’ recognition agreements.

As the court was seized with two cases of a similar nature, one at the instigation of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the other filed by other public sector unions in Botswana Landboards, Local Authority and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Sector of Educations Trade Unions (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union, it was agreed by the parties that the cases be consolidated to hearing on November 26, 2018.

The parties were ordered to have filed all necessary documents pertaining to the documents before the case resumes for final determination. Appearing for the state, Ndiye Balule pleaded with the court to postpone the matter to a later date because the Attorney General was only served with the papers founding the case but has not yet filed any defence currently. Balule submitted that the case was very involving and the Attorney General had only been served 4 days ago while there is a lot of engagement concerning the case they have to do with the DPSM which is principally based in Gaborone. Amplifying the point of how involving the case is, Balule further submitted that the recognition that the unions had been hitherto been enjoying was under threat and he was not in a position to consent to the unions’ draft order as they were convinced the letter of October 16, 2018 did not strip the respective unions of their recognition. Balule further submitted that the case was of immense national interest hence his submission for postponement to allow the state sufficient time to prepare and file its defence. Appearing for the unions, Mboki Chilisa was not happy that the state intended to file supplementary affidavits which they have not been served with, an act which he considered an outright ambush to the unions.

He said it was discourteous of the state to apply for the filing of the affidavit which they even failed to serve them with as they had travelled with some of the counsel aboard the same flight to Francistown, and who never bothered to alert them of the affidavit they intended to file with the court.

The only public sector union not affected by the DPSM letter of October 16, 2018 is the Botswana Nurses Association (BONU).

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