Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Squabbles rock Union, employer at BotswanaPost

The animosity that has developed between the BotswanaPost Management and Botswana Postal Services Workers Union has worsened, the latter’s Chairperson, Boitumelo Motshwari revealed last week.

This has seen two Union Chairpersons being fired from work within two years; and the current Vice Chairperson’s future with the parastatal being made desolate.

The first Chairperson was fired in 2002, and this year, Motshwari got fired through what he claims was victimisation. The organisation introduced new working software after retrenchment when the organisation experienced acute shortage of staff. Motshwari said the the outcome was varying balances which saw him being shown the door, following an accusatory internal audit report. He claims their expulsion was more of stamping- out unionising than disciplinary action on employees.

The bone of contention is the Recognition Agreement the employer signed with employees’ representatives at the commencement of their contract. The employer now considers some of its clauses obsolete since adopting performance oriented approach for appraisal of employees. The management allegedly threatened to abandon it and operate its business fully with the Employment Act if the Union kept refusing to get rid of those clauses from the said agreement. The matter has since returned from the courts.

“The relationship between the union and our employers deteriorated after the retrenchment exercise. The union’s view was that the package be bargained while the management insisted that it would be determined by the workers’ performance since the company is performance oriented,” explained Motshwari.

Clause 9.1.2 of the Recognition Agreement states, “BPS undertakes to meet the union from time to time, for the purpose of negotiating matters affecting the terms and conditions of employment of those employees who are in the Bargaining Unit.”

Clause 17.1; says, ‘BPS undertakes to allow the Union office bearers and shop stewards to use the following facilities to carry their duties: notice boards, premises for meetings, office facilities such as phone, fax and email and transport when attending workshops, any BFTU activities and union congress.’ These are the clauses the management detests most.

“In places where there are no cleaning companies engaged, a Post Master has to start work much early so as to start up by cleaning. A task which was previously under operations department, like mail sorting, is done concurrently with retail tasks like selling of stamps, envelopes, electricity units and other retail tasks. For these the employees go away with a paltry P3200 at month-end,” Motshwari.

He added that the Botswana Post says it does not force its employees to work overtime. Yet the manner of its work forces them to surpass eight hours.

“There are employees who have to work on Sundays because there is business at airports. Instead of them being paid their overtime, they are told to get a day off during the week. Furthermore, some employees were denied retrenchment packages on the ground that they are being transferred to the Botswana Couriers- Botswana Post’s sister company. It keeps unfolding however that the two companies are different and their employees’ working conditions equally differ. Employees’ plights in BPS are unfair, and it seems no improvement will ever be experienced. The management is threatening that it would retrench more employees and replace them with Interns should employees keep complaining,” decried Motshwari.

Already, the Union has filed cases against the management. In response to this publication’s questions, BPS Head of Communications, Lebogang Bok said as an organisation they do not have the powers to fire Union Chairpersons.

“Botswana Post can only terminate on justifiable grounds, contracts of employment of its employees. Chairpersons are officials of a legal entity. There are also policies and procedures for the termination of employment contracts which the organisation adheres to,” she explained. She added that while they would not go into the merits of the contracts of employment that have been terminated, they give the assurance that where contracts were terminated, proper procedures have been followed.

“It therefore follows that allegations that the two had been fired through victimisation are not true. All employees have been trained on the relevant systems that they use,” said Bok.
“It is true Botswana Post has recognition agreement with the Union, which is currently under review. Botswana Post continues to review its business needs as well as its workplace plan. The question of multi-tasking is before the courts of law and will not be discussed beyond this. It is true that there are matters filed before the courts of law. Hence, we are not in a position to elaborate on same as the matters are sub-judice,” she said.

She said management is not aware of any threat to retrench employees and engage Interns and Tirelo Sechaba participants’ consequent of any union action. Their engagement is part of the organisation’s strategies employed to government’s call of giving graduates experience and assisting national service strategy.

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