The Botswana Railways Amalgamated Workers Union took their beleaguered organization to task last week when they handed a strongly worded petition to the Mahalapye District Commissioner to forward to Labour and Home Affairs Minister Charles Tibone.
In the petition, the BR employees make damning allegations of maladministration and corruption on the part of the BR management, further calling for a commission of enquiry similar to the one that probed BOTEC to cleanse the organization of the rampant corruption that infests its operations.
The union explained that numerous attempts to raise their concerns with the BR management came to naught and they were, therefore, seeking the intervention of the minister’s office to address their concerns as a matter of urgency.
The employees said that the recent retrenchment exercise at BR resulted in some positions falling vacant while other new positions were created.
”Contrary to normal practice at the organization the said positions were not competed for as management decided to employ some divide and rule tactics by handpicking some employees to fill the vacant posts and therefore creating animosity between employees. The reasons forwarded for this handpicking exercise are flimsy and there is no clear cut criteria that was used to choose those who were appointed to the said posts,” read part of the petition. They called for a full investigation of all retrenchments and promotions.
The employees went on to lambast BR’s new pay structure which they said failed to recognize seniority when placing employees in their respective notches. They accuse management of lack of consultation during the structuring of salaries, which resulted in the lumping of employees in various notches without regard to seniority and subsequent disgruntlement among senior employees.
The workers accuse the Industrial Relations Manager of being responsible for the soured relationship between management and staff due to his partisan and unfair conduct. “We demand that he be relieved of his duties as the Industrial Relations Manager and Acting Human Resources Manager and a more competent manager be employed as a matter of urgency for good industrial harmony,” they demanded in the petition.
The BRAWU also decried the rampant corruption that they say is inherent in the operations of the organizations. They cited the violation of procurement procedures as a glaring example. The union says that there was no competition during the outsourcing of the repairs of locomotives 335 and 217, as the preferred company was handpicked without any documentation.
They further decried the present system in which most of the locomotive repairs are done in South Africa saying that there is no basis for this as BR has the capacity to carry out repairs locally.
They demanded an investigation into how some BR traction motors for locomotives ended up in South Africa without proper documentation and a further investigation into circumstances leading to contracting out of repair work for some locomotives notably 220 and 225.
The petition also demanded that the BR board publishes the findings of the audit report of the Finance Department as well as another report on the rampant corruption and violation of procurement procedures at rolling stock department.
In their negotiations with management over salary increments the union requested a 14 percent salary increment but later settled for a 10 percent increment after negotiations. The reason given for the 4 percent shortfall was that the organization is running short of funds. While management was claiming shortage of funds it awarded supervisors and management from band 7 upwards a 5 percent housing allowance.
While still pleading lack of funds the same management awarded top management ranging from band 9 upwards an inducement allowance placed at a staggering 20 percent of the concerned employees’ salary. The argument for shortage of funds was therefore thrown to the winds when it comes to incentives for top management.
They demanded that the 5 percent housing allowance currently enjoyed by the chosen few be extended to all BR employees and that the recently introduced 20 percent inducement allowance be done away with and all beneficiaries reimburse the organization.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, BRAWU General Secretary, Adam Phetlhe, said that management has always displayed an unwillingness to negotiate with them in good faith and they have taken the decision to petition the minister with the hope that he addresses their grievances within a reasonable period of time. Phetlhe said that while the union and management have always maintained a cordial relationship, they feel shortchanged because management has always dragged its feet in addressing their complaints resulting in the piling up of grievances.