The troubled BCL through its subsidiary Pula Steel Company is involved in a frantic court battle over the ‘unfair dismissal’ of two Indian nationals. The two disgruntled employees have accused Pula Steel of failure to comply with their contractual obligation and not paying them their outstanding monthly salaries since last year September.
One of the employees, Anil Kumar, spoke to this publication and said their dismissal was unjustifiable. He also said the management did not have the right to fire them as the dispute is currently before the Labour Offices. ”It is an intimidation just to silence us because early this month we downed tools after the management failed to pay our salaries. They only managed to pay our salaries after the strike. Honestly, how can we work without going for holidays, or having off days and without leave days? This is poor labour practice and strange – i think the management is unfairly treating us,” said the clearly infuriated Kumar.
According to Kumar, the management has neither paid him terminal benefits nor served him with notice of termination of contract. ”Without any consultation, they served me with a termination letter and tried to force me to leave the country without payment. They said i will receive my money in India. Brian (Pula Steel Corporate Services Director) talks too much and never fulfils his commitments,” said Kumar.
When contacted for comment, Pula Steel Corporate Services Director Brian Mosenene refuted the allegations, arguing that the duo’s contracts were terminated to replace them with local staff.
Mosenene further stated that according to the contract, the management had the right to terminate their employment if and when they found qualified local personnel to replace them, arguing that the duo’s case is a way of avoiding going back to their country.
”We have trained some locals in various areas of specialty and that is why we are terminating their contracts. About their money, they should go to India because their money would be paid through their agency,” said Mosenene.
However, Mosenene recently told one local publication that they cannot do anything without the expatriates as there are no locals who are qualified in the field of crane operation. This was after the Indian personnel went on strike. He even cited the example where they lost 90 tonnes of production because three of the expatriates in the field of Crane Operation were sick.
According to Mosenene, Pula Steel is currently training 8 locals as Indian nationals are now taking advantage of the situation. He also revealed that they do not have a direct contract with the said employees but have a contract with People Map Agency that recruited 53 Indian experts.
He said the company had contracted a recruitment agency in India to arrange for the said personnel hence the payments are done by that agency in India.
”They should know and understand that Pula Steel is not directly indebted to them, we don’t owe them but we owe the agency some money. We have communicated this to the agency with the belief that they will inform the said employees of our working capital challenges,” said Mosenene.
Mosenene expressed optimism that the Labour Office will assist and resolve the matter before the duo tarnish the name of the company and of Botswana. Mosenene would not be drawn to discuss how much they owe the agency and the two Indian personnel saying the matter would be heard this coming Monday.