Thursday, May 6, 2021

Strike looms at BURS

Employees of Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) are contemplating strike action after salary negotiations with the employer hit a stalemate. The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), which represents the employees, on Friday revealed that the two parties went for mediation after declaring a deadlock and later signed a certificate of failure to settle.

“Our members gave us a mandate to go all the way. We will pursue all options available, including strike action. While we are appalled by the unwillingness of the employer to negotiate in good faith, we are still open for a better offer,” said BOPEU President Andrew Motsamai.

The union was demanding 11 percent while BURS insisted on six percent in line with the public service salary increment. The salary negotiations started in November 2014, when BURS asked BOPEU to submit its proposals for the parastatal’s organisational and pay structure review. However, BOPEU was surprised when BURS management upgraded and recruited staff while they had still not received the union’s proposals.

“The employer was negotiating in bad faith. While awaiting our proposals, they went ahead and implemented matters that were directly related to the review,” said Motsamai.

In March, BOPEU tabled its demand for a 15 percent salary increment, but BURS management pleaded with the union to defer negotiations as the structural review exercise was still underway. Motsamai revealed that they were invited for a salary negotiation meeting May 8th, at which BURS asked them to approve a proposed six percent salary increment.

“We refused to do that because we had gone to the meeting to negotiate, not to approve the six percent offered by BURS. Instead, we went back to seek a fresh mandate from our members,” said Motsamai.

He added that they were against the BURS stance that salary increments had to be pegged along those of the public service. Industrial Court President, Tebogo Maruping later agreed with BOPEU during an urgent application, saying BURS was not obliged to confine or restrict its increment to the maximum limit awarded by government. He added that doing so amounted to breach by BURS.

Meanwhile the Manual Workers Union, which also has membership at BURS, agreed to the proposed six percent increment. BOPEU later lowered its demands to 11 percent, but BURS refused to budge from its stated six percent. The two parties then agreed on a 14 day cooling off period, during which BURS implemented the six percent increment that was agreed upon by the Manual Workers Union. The increment would affect non unionised employees of BURS and employees who were exclusive members of Manual Workers Union.

BOPEU unsuccessfully sought an interdiction against the implementation, saying it would compromise its members’ right to a fair bargaining process. After the cooling off period, the two parties met again on June 25th, whereupon BURS management requested for time to consult with their principals. They returned on 2nd July with a message that they had been instructed not to budge from the six percent offer. Both parties then declared a deadlock and went for mediation on July 10th, where they signed a certificate of failure to settle.

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