Ahead of its merger with the Botswana Technology Centre (BOTEC), the Rural Industries Promotions Company (RIPCO) has been dragged to court for unilaterally canceling an exit package agreement reached with its employees’ Union.
The National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Union (NALCGPWU) has filed an urgent court application before High Court judge Abednego Tafa to challenge a revocation of a collective labour Agreement between itself and RIPCO.
RIPCO is a fully-owned government company tasked with technology development in energy. Among other tasks, it conducts research in renewable energy, water treatment, water pumping and agriculture.
The cancelled agreement was concluded in April this year and terminated by a letter from RIPCO managing director, Truman Phuthego, on the 16th of May.
The Union wants the agreement to be declared binding and the cancelation to be set aside.
As a result of the ongoing merger, several RIPCO employees have been notified about a looming retrenchment exercise.
The Union contends that with the agreement out of the way negotiations on employees’ packages, notice pay, separation pay, transport and relocation assistance and other related benefits remain undecided.
Through an affidavit deposed by the Union’s organising secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, the Union argues that the decision to cancel the agreement is both unlawful and invalid.
According to RIPCO, the agreement concluded with the Union was not sanctioned by the board.
It further states that not only did the agreement lack the board’s blessings but that at the crucial meeting to seal the agreement, management was not represented because Union employees who attended the meeting on behalf of management are members of NALCGPWU. Moreover, RIPCO has pointed out that the said employees did not declare a conflict of interest.
“The respondent states that all members of the negotiating team that represented the Respondent were also Union members. This, according to the Respondent, meant in effect, that management proper was not represented during negotiations. In my understanding, it does not matter to the applicant whether or not the Directors who signed the contract with the Applicant had authority from the board,” states Motshwarakgole.
Motshwarakgole is of the view that RIPCO’s managing director, Truman Phuthego, knew about the meeting and the different representatives that convened.
The Union says that RIPCO has always been aware that some of those present on behalf of RIPCO were Union members.
“The applicant cannot be blamed for errors, if any, by Respondent’s management even assuming that the Respondent is right, which is denied. If anything, conflict of interest should cause the Respondent to take action against its directors who failed to declare. This action may include them having to forfeit their personal rights under the exit agreement,” adds Motshwarakgole.
The Union says that the case should be heard straight away before the merger between RIPCO and BOTEC is concluded. The process of combining the two organizations is expected to be done by July.
Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorney is representing the Amalgamated Union, while RIPCO is represented by Dingake Law Partners. The case is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday.