Friday, June 25, 2021

Union demands sacking of Debswana managing director

A case in which Debswana is accused of installing spy cameras to eavesdrop on its employees has branched off into a new row with the mine workers union demanding the sacking of acting managing director Lynette Armstrong. The Botswana Mining Workers Union (BMWU) demands that she be relieved of her duties for failing to, among others, resolve the case in which Debswana is being sued for over P100 million by a company identified as Infortrac for allegedly failing to honour its financial obligation. This comes in the wake of unconfirmed reports that Debswana has fired all suspended staff members implicated in the falsification of a damning report implicating a former managing director. 

In a strongly worded letter addressed to Debswana Board Chairperson and Permanent Secretary to the President Elias Magosi and signed by the union’s Secretary General Maenge Maenge, BMWU calls on Magosi to intervene and pull the plug on Armstrong’s contract. According to BMWU, “Central to Magosi’s intervention are; satisfactory on the reasons for the installation of the spy cameras, their intended use and whereabouts within the operation, out of court settlement of the Infortrac (PTY) Ltd debacle and forensic audit to be commissioned to settle any allegations of misappropriation on the abovementioned areas or process.” 

Maenge states that it is regrettable that no action has been taken by the managing director on any of the issues at hand. “Neither has she proffered any update to the Union despite several requests. No clear decision has been taken on these issues, in fact the MD (Managing Director) has declined this request(s) without further reference to the Union,” he said. Maenge said this suggests an unfathomable level of indifference to the Union’s role in safe guarding the integrity of the company which the union has enjoyed a long-term partnership. 

“Anyone at the helm of Debswana Diamond Company should understand the importance of BMWU and its advice on matters relating to the company’s good will and its potential impact on the workers as well as on the nation of this good republic,” said Maenge. He said the Union is currently of the view that certain decisions including the one to conduct a forensic audit as per BMWU’s request is as a result of the fettered powers currently being exercised by Armstrong. “The MD does not have unfettered discretion to make decisions of the nature requested by the Union hence the need for the need for Debswana Board of Directors to expedite the recruitment and appointment process and get someone who can drive implementation of decision’s made.  

“To date several industrial relations matters at the JNCC (Joint Negotiation Consultation Committee) have not been concluded and it appears they remain unresolved for sometimes to come until they are taken seriously by the leadership of the company. “We put it to you that the reason why you have mot confirmed the current acting MD to the substantive position, is for the same reasons we have raised above, her ability to meet key stakeholder interests and probably organizational strategic goals. Good industrial relations are a corollary of good management and the mining sector and an MD who does not understand that is not fit to be considered in this position,” said Maenge. 

He said it was the position of the union that “given the nature of the position and the grit required to discharge the duties of the position, the current acting MD falls far short of meeting those attributes and therefore should be considered in the recruitment process for the substantial MD position.” Maenge further said the delay in the appointment of a substantive managing director is a real concern on workers as it directly impacts negatively on them as well as on the strategic goal of the company. Responding to Sunday Standard queries, Agatha Sejoe, Corporate Affairs Manager at Debswana confirmed that “Yes the Company is aware of the letter (written to Magosi).” She added that BMWU is afforded audience continually as per our existing consultative and negotiation structures.“

Furthermore, the Managing Director of the company has met with the leadership of the Union on a number of occasions in 2020 to discuss and provide response to various issues they raised. The responses may not be favourable to the Union but they remain the position of the Company. That the Union is unhappy with responses they have provide with bears no relevance on the fitness or otherwise of the acting MD,” said Sejoe. She would not be drawn into discussing whether Debswana has dismissed some of its senior personnel who were suspended from work on suspicion that they falsified a report relating to the spy cameras and Infortrac Pty Ltd. 

“Debswana respects and upholds its policies pertaining to employer/employee confidentiality, hence we cannot share information regarding the employment status of current or former employees publicly unless there are compelling circumstances that require us to do so,” said Sejoe. On the status of the outcome of the investigation by Debswana aimed at establishing whether the employees in question falsified the report and why, Sejoe said: “The investigation is an internal matter for which the outcomes shall not be made available publicly.”

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