Some unions affiliated to the coalition of public sector unions have issued an austere warning to the government to repeal some regulations in the new Public Service Act or face legal action.
Unions argue that the regulations literally detain public officers at their work posts.
According to a letter of notice to sue issued this week, a demand has been made for President Ian Khama to scrap the regulations or face the consequences of a civil suit.
The regulations relate to hours of work, shift work, weekly rests, paid public holidays, overtime as well as annual paid leave. These regulations were published in the Government Gazette last month.
Not only have the regulations infuriated the Unions but they have put them on a war path.
According to the Botswana Public Employees Union, Botswana Teachers Union, Botswana Secondary School Teachers Union and the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Worker’s Union, Khama has no authority to make such regulations.
In their notice of intention to sue the Attorney General Ataliah Molokomme and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), the Union contend that the President acted unlawfully when coming up with the regulations because the basic conditions of service concerning hours of work, overtime, leave, and public holidays are supposed to be settled through collective bargaining.
The Unions accuse government of taking away the Unions’ right to negotiate and settle for their preferred conditions of service with the employer.
Furthermore, the Unions state that the regulations by the employer are inconsistent with a part of the Public Sector Act as well as the Employment Act.
The Unions say that it does not understand why, for instance, a night watchman employed in government should work more than eight hours when the Public Service Act prescribes a maximum of eight hours as the maximum time that any employee may be required to work in a day.
At the very least, the Unions contend the government should have consulted them or the Labour Advisory Board.
“Assuming that it was competent for the President to promulgate Regulations dealing with conditions of service, which we maintain it was not, he was duty bound to afford the recognised trade unions an opportunity of making representation before doing so. Alternatively, he was obliged…to allow the Labour Advisory Board to deliberate on the regulations before promulgating them; and this he failed to do,” a part of the notice reads.