Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Salary negotiations in limbo as public sector unions square up

Industrial Court Judge President, Tebogo Maruping on Monday interdicted the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) from proceeding with the 2016/17 salary negotiations after ruling in favour of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), which was challenging the admission of its rival Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) into the bargaining council.

BOPEU had dragged BOFEPUSU to court challenging its admission into the PSBC, arguing that BOFEPUSU is not a trade union that is recognised by the employer. BOPEU also said the threshold for admission into the PSBC should be met by individual trade unions as they are the ones that are recognised at the work place.

When delivering judgement on the matter, Justice Maruping said BOFEPUSU affiliates failed to demonstrate that at least two or more of them meet the requirements of recognition at the workplace. He added that BOFEPUSU also failed to represent at least one third (1/3) of the membership of all recognised trade unions whose members are public officers.

The court said the verification exercise undertaken by the PSBC and its general secretary should have verified the constituent trade unions affiliated to BOFEPUSU individually rather than taking all unions as a single unit. It appears that if each constituent trade union affiliated to BOFEPUSU is to be verified independently, only one of them the Manual Workers Union will qualify for inclusion in the PSBC while  the rest will fail to meet the 1/3 requirement prescribed by section 6.1.1 of the PSBC constitution.

“It should be recalled that admission has far reaching consequences including seats on the bargaining table and voting weights. The court agrees with the interpretation of the founding documentation of the PSBC,” said the Industrial Court President.

Justice Maruping then concluded that BOPEU was entitled to the relief it sought and made a determination that BOPEU’s application should be declared urgent. A rule nisi returnable on Friday 7th March, 2016 was issued calling upon BOFEPUSU to show cause why the court should not issue a final order declaring that it is not entitled to admission into the PSBC. BOFEPUSU was also challenged to show cause why the court should not declare that for the purposes of verification the PSBC shall take into consideration the individual membership figures of its constituent affiliates; Botswana Land Board and Local Authorities Workers Union (BLLAWU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Manual workers union’ and not as the collective. Justice Maruping also interdicted the PSBC from proceeding with the 2016/2017 salary and conditions of service negotiations pending conclusion of the matter.

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