Job hunters seeking employment with Bank of Baroda (Botswana) are required to pay a P1 500 “security deposit” before their employment is confirmed. The workers are employed as tellers but may be instructed to perform other tasks, contrary to Botswana labour laws.
An offer of employment letter addressed to one of the bank employees, a copy of which has been passed to The Sunday Standard, is not specific on the job title. The letter reads in part, “The job title is not exhaustive and the bank can instruct you to perform other functions for which you have the requisite training, experience, capability or aptitude.”
The letter goes on to state that flexibility in the performance of job functions is the integral part of the employment relationship.
The offer letter further states that, “Before joining for service, you are required to deposit security deposit of P1500 which will earn interest as per rate applicable for fixed deposit. This security shall be kept for a period of at least three years under bank’s alien.”
When confronted to explain the purpose of the security deposit, the bank’s Managing Director, D. Mitra, said, “Our employees get their salaries on the 20th of every month for the entire month, but there are instances when the employee deserts the bank immediately after taking their salary for the entire month, despite their not having served the remaining days.”
In addition, Mitra said the money is saved in the name of the employees, not the bank, and that it’s saved as a fixed deposit earning 9% interest. However, Baroda Chief posited, “We have only just referred the matter to our attorney seeking their opinion whether as per the laws of the Land such security deposits can be obtained.” He further stated that should their attorney’s opinion be negative, “We will discontinue this practice.”
An employee of the bank, who declined to be mentioned by name, said, “They have never told us that this is security for in case we desert, in fact, even the way it appears in my offer letter it only states that it’s a security deposit but it does not say what the security is for, except that it will earn interest applicable for fixed deposit.”
Approached to comment on the issue, Claude Mojafi, Commissioner of Labour in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, said, “It’s first time I come across such kind of working conditions.” The job title must be specific, because otherwise there is always a risk that the employer could be tempted to engage their workers on tasks outside the scope of their otherwise stated area of operation.
To justify their ambiguous terms of employment or lack of definitive job title, the Managing Director said, “Notice should also be taken that we employ most of these people raw, and the idea is to produce an all rounded banker, who would fit in any banking function once elevated or engaged by other banks.”
Currently, there are no citizen managers at Bank of Baroda. To this Mitra said, “We served the Botswana Bank Employees Union (BOBEU) with our proposals for localization, for their input last year September, and it is only this year May 12 that we heard from them. Mojafi, acknowledged that his office is still waiting for a collective position from the parties on the basis of which “we can then enter into a tripartite arrangement as per the labour statutes.”
Mojafi added that it is very important that employees be mindful of the sort of agreements they enter into with employers. Concerning the security deposit, the matter might be worth following up as it sounds irregular.
The few employees of the bank interviewed said that it is mainly out of fear of loosing opportunities that they find it hard to question any seemingly awkward terms on the part of the employer. The labour official said that, whilst he understands the basis of such fear, it is not helpful because, in the final analysis, the problem does come to an end.
According to the offer letter, the employees are further advised to note that, as a rule, they are not allowed to use the bank’s postal box for their own private correspondence. The bank officials asserted that it is in the workers’ interest that the decision was taken, though the box is the company’s private property. They say that would avoid a situation where people unintentionally fiddle with others’ personal mail.