Public sector unions are approaching the courts to interpret their recognition under the new Public Service Act of 2008,┬áamid fears that government is planning to de-recognize them.
The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) met five public sector unions on Monday to discuss implementation of the new Public Service Act but the talks deadlocked over recognition of unions.
The government wants unions to demonstrate that they have at least one third of their membership in its employ. This has peeved the five unions who argue┬áthat by inviting them to the meeting, the government recognized them.
┬á“The government is confused and thinks that with the New Public Service Act, unions should be newly recognized. The employer must come out clearly and say I don’t recognize you and give us one year to get the recognition. We felt that we should to ask the courts to interpret who is recognized and who is not,” the national chairperson┬áof the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government Workers and Parastatal Workers Union, Othusitse Tsalaile, told The Telegraph.
Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) president, Andrew Motsamai, said that the government understanding of recognition was parallel to that of the unions.
“We have a recognition agreement with the employer which still stands. If the government de-recognizes unions, it should do so by applying to the Commissioner of Labour,” said Motsamai.
In terms of Section 33 (1) of the Trade Dispute Act ÔÇôWithdrawal of recognition at the Work Place, “an employer may apply to the Commissioner to withdraw the recognition of the Trade Union contemplated under section 50 (6) of the Trade Union and Employers Organization Act.”
Motsamai argued that the new Public Service Act recognizes unions in that when it calls for the establishment of the bargaining Council it refers to existing trade unions.
“This was the understanding of the meeting but the employer showed discomfort saying recognition fell off under the new Act,” said Motsamai.
While the issue of recognition remained a sticking point, both parties nevertheless agreed to form an interim committee to form a bargaining structure comprising of five representatives from government and unions. ┬á
“We met to chart the way forward in the establishment of the National Bargaining Structures. There are some activities that were done such as the draft constitution that would establish the National Bargaining Council. We had asked the unions to confirm their membership with us. We needed to validate their recognition with the new employer. Our understanding was that it has to be done in line with the new Public Service Act which has repealed their recognition from the previous Act,” said Festina Bakwena, the head honcho at the Directorate of Public Service Management.
Bakwena confirmed that the unions informed DPSM that they are going to court.
“Our view is that something needs to be done. And that is validation. The unions have to demonstrate that they have the required one third of employees to be recognized. But they have since indicated that they are proceeding to court,” Bakwena told the Telegraph on Monday.
The five unions represented at the Monday meeting were, Botswana Landboard, Health and Workers Union, Botswana Public Employees Union, Botswana Secondary Education Teachers Union, Botswana Teachers Union, National Amalgamated Local and Central Government Workers and Parastatal Workers Union. Concerned parties were to issue a joint statement on the outcome of the talks by the time of going to press.