Botswana: Unions Reject 6%, 10% Freeze

Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng, alongside Director of Public Service Management, Goitseone Mosalakatane were not totally honest, when they told the nation on Saturday morning that they were awaiting a response from six public sector trade unions over suspension of salary increases.

The Patriot on Sunday can confirm that Mosalakatane and Morwaeng were aware of a letter written by the six trade unions' negotiating team dated 22 April 2020, rejecting government's request to defer salary increments for six months. "We demand that the employer should implement the agreed adjustment of the public service salaries by 6% and 10% for the C & D and A & B grades respectively effective April 2020 as per the February 2019 Collective Agreement and the subsequent Public Service Directive No. 1 of 2020," reads part of the letter signed by the Coordinator of the six cooperating trade unions (6CTU), Tobokani Rari.

In fact, DPSM has responded to the letter written by the six trade unions, where they outline government's reason for deferring payment of salary increments that was scheduled to be effected on April 01, 2020. The Patriot on Sunday is in possession of correspondence between the parties on this matter, with the last DPSM letter signed by Mosalakatane dated 24 April 2020 (Friday).In the letter Mosalakatane conceded that they did not engage the trade unions timeously. "We humbly apologise for this communication gap though it was due to circumstances beyond our control," she wrote.

By Friday, five of sixteen local authorities (District Councils) and three out of twelve landboards had already effected payment of salaries with the agreed increases as ealier advised by Mosalakatane through a Memo at the beginning of April.

In her letter on Friday she also admitted that disparities in salaries caused by this development will cause differences in pension benefits due to upward adjustment of salaries by 6 and 10%. "We have been assured that at the end of the deferrement period, pension contribution for each employee will be computed and credited as lump sum to individual pension accounts," she said.

The unions' bone of contention is that government has not furnished them with sufficient evidence to convince them that indeed there are no funds to pay. Therefore, the six trade unions have scheduled a meeting with the employer party-DPSM, tomorrow (Monday, April 27th 2020) where government has been requested to present concrete evidence about the effects of Covid-19 on the budget. The unions, will in turn, present their own demands before they agree to accept the deferrement of salary increases for six months, which ironically government has already implemented.

One of the major demands by the trade unions is that government must commit to cover tax liabilities that will arise from salary increase being paid retrospectively after six months. "When the arrears are paid after six months it is a given that it will be a substantial amount of money that will push salaries into the tax bracket. Consequently, BURS will penalise civil servants for such amounts that shouldnt have ordinarily attracted tax deductions," a source explained the source of complaints from the unions.

During the Saturday morning briefing, widely covered on national television and social media platforms of all mainstream media, Morwaeng was adamant that government is negotiating in good faith with the trade unions. He, however, gave away the attitude and approach by government when he responded in vernacular that "lenyalo ga le rerelwe ruri".

He was responding to a question why he was addressing the nation on an issue that they are yet to conclude with the trade unions, and what government will do if civil servants reject the deferrement he was proposing. After a mind boggling, lengthy and rather irrelevant analogy about a the death of a family member (a mother), Morwaeng concluded, again in vernacular;" ga re kake ra lesa mmaarona a bolla mo ntlung re sa mo hitlhe". In short, Morwaeng was telling the nation that government will disregard the position of trade unions, should they not agree with the proposal to suspend salary increases.

The unions are unhappy with how Morwaeng is handling the issue because they feel that he is undermining all the tenets of collective bargaining in good faith. Rari declined to comment on the issue after the Morwaeng briefing. "As far as we are concerned we are meeting DPSM on Monday," he said briefly, declining to confirm or deny if indeed they have rejected government proposal and made some demands on DPSM.

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