Monday, August 10, 2020

Union seeks to halt BPC power trip

The Botswana Power Corporation Workers Union (BPWU) has dragged the cash-strapped power utility before the High Court alleging violation of an agreement on retrenchment packages.

The Union seeks, among others, an order calling upon the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) to show cause why its decision of 14th December 2016 cannot be reviewed, corrected or set aside

The union also seeks an order directing that the retrenchment of and redundancy packages agreement signed by the parties on the 13th March 2013 be implemented.

The union also seeks an order directing the BPC to pay the costs of the application on attorney and client scale.

According to court records, sometime in 2009, the BPC and the union concluded an agreement dubbed The Early Exit Policy. The purpose of the policy was to outline terms and conditions in case of early exit such as retrenchment, redundancy and early retrenchment. The said policy was revived by the parties on or about 1st April 2014 and it is now titled the separation policy.

The terms of the policy were that an employee whose contract of employment is to be terminated under the provisions of the separation policy shall be entitled to a package that shall be determined from time to time.

It also stated that there are two separate packages to be applied in the case of early exit, retirement, retrenchment and redundancy.

It also stipulated that the minimum rates shall be reviewed from time to time depending on markets trends and the corporation’s financial position.

Court records also show that on or about 6th January 2016, letters were issued to employees of BPC in terms of which the corporation informed its employees of the likelihood of retrenchment.

Another letter was also issued to the Commissioner of Labour informing him of the said impending retrenchment. Those who were affected were employees in Customer Services and Support Department, Rural Department, Corporate Services Department, Corporate Finance Development, Corporate Human Resources Development and Transmission Department.

In his founding affidavit the union’s general secretary, Bohithetswe Lentswe states that the process affected the same employees who were identified for retrenchment in 2015.  

He said in February 2916, the BPC issued a letter to the union requesting it to come to the table to negotiate failing which the corporation would apply the minimum package conferred by law.

The union responded through its attorneys reiterating its position that the existing package should be used.  The BPC then sought the intervention of the Commissioner of Labour.

The matter was called for mediation and the labour office issued a certificate of failure to settle a dispute.

In 2017, Lentswe said, the BPC issued yet another letter to the Commission of Labour notifying him of the decision to engage on a restructuring process which will result in creation of new jobs, some old jobs becoming redundant and certain skills base of current employees becoming obsolete thus leading to redundancies and retrenchment.  The said strategy is now called MASA 2020.

“It is my averment that the termination of the process of retrenchment which started in March 2015 was solely to avoid the implementation of the retrenchment and redundancy agreement,” said Lentswe.

He added: “For instances services which were outsourced still remain outsourced and the positions relating to the same are redundant and having been redundant from the date a decision was made to outsource them.”

He said the Retrenchment and Redundancy Package: Conclusive Agreement is binding upon the parties. He added that the said agreement constitutes a collective agreement which is binding on the parties and the union’s members.

“It is my averment that the Early Exit Policy forms part of the Human Resources and Policy Manual which document us also incorporated in the terms and conditions of employment of the Respondent’s employees,” said Lentswe.

He said the package was negotiated by BPC and the union to be implemented or used with the Corporate Strategic Agenda 2013 to 2018 or any retrenchment within BPC.

He said BPC used its power to terminate the agreement for ulterior purposes and to achieve that which was not intended by section 40 of the Trade Dispute Act.

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