The Attorney General’s Chambers has failed to defend President Ian Khama in a case in which he was being sued by the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) over his unilateral announcement of a four percent salary increment for public servants outside the statutes of the Public Service Bargaining council (PSBC).
The public sector federation had dragged the President to court seeking a declaration that his interference in the activities of the PBC was unlawful. When the matter came before the High Court on Monday lawyers from the Attorney General’s Chambers failed to show up or file replying affidavits on the matter.
In the suit, BOFEUPSU was challenging what it calls President Khama’s persistent interference in salary negotiations and bargaining processes by making unilateral announcements and pronouncements on salaries and other conditions of service of the public service outside the PSBC. The case follows President Khama’s decision to announce a four percent salary hike for public workers last year while wage negotiations were still on-going at the PSBC. The union wanted the courts to declare the increment illegal saying it was done outside the mandated forum, the bargaining council.
Early this year a panel of three judges, led by Judge President Ian Kirby, also ordered the Attorney General to file a statement answering issues raised by BOFEPUSU on whether President Khama was wrong to make the announcement. In its papers, BOFEPUSU argued that there seems to be confusion as to whether there are two centres of power with respect to issues of adjusting conditions of public service. BOFEPUSU also argued that the nature of the Bargaining Council, which encourages negotiating “in good faith” does not permit either party to make any announcement that were not agreed upon.
“The government was bound by the PSBC principles to act on the matter as one unit,” said BOFEPUSU. On President Khama’s interference with the bargaining process BOFEPUSU said the President was also bound by the same principles that bound government in the negotiations. BOFEPUSU also argued that Khama’s actions undermined the integrity of the Bargaining Council and were not in accordance with international best practices of negotiating in good faith. Judgment on the case has been reserved for 31st August 2015.