Botswana Government Workers Union (BOGOWU) and the Trainers and Allied Workers Unions (TAWU) are suing government for refusing to furnish them with public books of accounts.
The unions are demanding information on government spending and the wage bill, which will assist them to make an informed demand for a salary increase. TAWU and BOGOWU who are holding parallel salary negotiations with government have dragged government to court accusing her of acting in bad faith in negotiations. In his founding affidavit, TAWU deputy president, Edward Tswaipe, said government has repeatedly ignored their request for such information.
“We agreed that negotiations would be restricted to the financial term 2011/2012, which attested to the urgency of the matter. However, government has continuously ignored our requests for information relevant to negotiations,” said Tswaipe.
In the end, they wrote government a warning letter on May 27th, and finally dragged government to court last week.
However, the application failed on a technicality as Industrial Court Judge President Elijah Legwaila ruled that they failed to give government the statutory 30 day notice before suing.
However, Justice Legwaila dismissed government’s defense that she failed to disclose the required information because she was still occupied with salary negotiations with BOFEPUSU, saying government has never bothered to respond to any of the two unions’ requests. He added that negotiations with BOFEPUSU should not impact on TAWU and BOGOWU.
“It is poppycock for government to accuse the unions of impatience and suggest that there could be meaningful negotiations even if BOFEPUSU and government agreed on a salary increase,” he said.
He, however, said the unions have failed to demonstrate that there exist special circumstances to warrant the waving of the statutory 30 day notice.
“Maybe government would have responded to the unions notice to sue by supplying them with the information they sought. Notice to the attorney general is mandatory,” he said.
TAWU and BOGOWU are appealing the decision. TAWU President, Allen Keitseng, said on Monday that they need government’s financial information especially with regards to the wage bill.
“We want to know the principles that guide government’s wage bill. We want to know what agreements government has with external stakeholders like the IMF and the World Bank. We want to peruse government books so that we can make an informed demand for a salary increase,” he said.
He said government’s refusal to disclose such information is in violation of the rules of engagement that they have with government, and Section 48 of the Trade Unions and Employers Organizations Act.
“Government never intended to supply the information. Why would government claim there is no money, and yet fail to prove that to us?” asked Tswaipe.
For his part, BOGOWU President, Kaboda Phillip, said they will not hesitate to blow the whistle if, when they peruse government books, they find that she has not been financially prudent. He also did not rule out the possibility of industrial action, saying they will not hesitate to strike if they reach a deadlock with government.