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Acting Vice President Adresses Ntlo Ya Dikgosi on Public Str...
08/06/11
Modulasetilo wa Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, Mong wame Kgosi Puso Gaborone Tona Ya Ofisi Ya Ga Tautona le Bodirela Puso; Mokgweetsi Masisi Beng bame, Maloko a Ntlo Ya Dikgosi,   I wish to thank the Chairman for having accorded me the
opportunity to brief Ntlo Ya Dikgosi on the on-going Public Service Strike that commenced on the 18th April 2011 to date. Modulasetilo, in December 2008, Parliament passed the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008, which establishes a single public service to ensure consistent terms and conditions of employment for all Government employees, and facilitate the establishment of collective bargaining structures.  It enables Government and recognised Public Service trade unions to engage in negotiations and bargaining over issues pertaining to terms and conditions of employment including salaries

The implementation of the Act commenced on the 1st of May 2010, giving rise to the current public service salary negotiations. Subsequently, since the 1st of February 2011, the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) representing Government as the Employer has been engaged in salary negotiations for the financial year 2011/2012 with five (5) recognised Public Service unions affiliated to the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU). These unions are the Botswana Land Board and Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Botswana Secondary School Teachers Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU).

The Unions made a submission to the Employer indicating that for the past three (3) consecutive years there has not been any salary adjustment to cushion the erosion of their purchasing power. They therefore requested for a 16% inflationary adjustment. The breakdown of their demand was 13.8% for inflationary adjustment and 2.2% for salary increase for the financial year 2011/2012, which made up a total of 16%.In response, the Employer indicated that Government could not afford any salary adjustment, given the current economic situation.  This was based on the current budget deficit which had grown over the last 3 years by 68% whilst the revenue had only grown by 17%.

As a result, Government deferred development projects, increased Value Added Tax (VAT), and borrowed extensively to fund the national expenditure during the same period. To date, Government spending remains in deficit, with a projected revenue shortfall of P7 billion in the current financial year.Notwithstanding the effects of the economic recession, Government took a deliberate decision to avoid retrenchments and salary reductions in the public service, and even assisted some private sector companies in the mining and textiles sectors to maintain current jobs and incomes.


 This was only made possible by running a huge budget deficit and maintaining high expenditures despite lower revenues. The intention of Government was to complete on-going development projects, which started before the recession, whilst maintaining economic activity and protecting employment in both the public and private sectors. It should also be noted that Government had incurred additional costs to comply with the provisions of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008 by paying all public service employees on Permanent and Pensionable terms on a 22-day month. This resulted in a 10% increase to the Government Wage Bill, which amounted to about P700 million that was not budgeted for in the
2010/2011 financial year.

Modulasetilo, It has to be noted that the public sector wages already cost Government P12 billion annually, which is more than the P10 billion allocated for development projects during the 2011/2012 financial year. 
I must also mention that the demand for a 16% wage increase would result in an additional P2 billion to the Wage Bill.   It was on the basis of the foregoing that Government initially proposed that public service salaries should not be increased until the economy recovers. 

 However, the Unions insisted on their demands arguing that the Employer was negotiating in bad faith as she was not offering anything. In an effort to break the impasse in the salary negotiations, the Employer offered a 2% salary adjustment on condition that the economic review would indicate a significant improvement at the end of the first quarter of 2011/12.
The Unions however declined the offer on the grounds that the Employer's offer was futuristic and conditional.  Consequently, the Union party referred the matter to the Commissioner of Labour and Social Security where the Mediator unsuccessfully attempted to settle the dispute as parties did not shift from their stated positions.

 On the 5th of April 2011, the Employer indicated that, since the parties were not able to resolve the dispute through mediation, she had reconsidered her offer on salary adjustment, to a 5% salary increase from the 1st of September 2011 on condition that the first quarter assessment of the economy, whose result would be known by August 2011, shows a significant improvement. The Unions declined the conditional offer arguing that it is tantamount to no offer because it lacks the bargaining aspect.  The Employer however indicated that she is unable to remove the condition from the offer because the economic performance could not be predicted, resulting in a stalemate on salary negotiations.

Considering the way forward, the Employer proposed that the dispute be referred for arbitration, but the Unions rejected the proposal indicating that they have been mandated to opt for an industrial action instead of arbitration.

 It was therefore on this basis that both parties agreed to proceed in accordance with the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act of 2003, but remain open for further negotiations without prejudice.  The Unions thereafter informed the Employer that they will be embarking on an industrial action for an indefinite period starting from the 18th April 2011. The commencement of the strike resulted in the closure of a number of health facilities across the country and eventually schools on the 9th May 2011.

 Government was therefore compelled to engage replacement labour before the expiry of 14 days, albeit contrary to provisions of the Trade Disputes Act. The Unions as a result took Government to Court, and Government was ordered to withdraw all the replacement labour. As a counter response, Government challenged the legality of the strike by employees in essential services.The Industrial Court ordered that the strike by essential services employees was illegal and unprotected, thus directing all affected employees to return to work with immediate effect.

 The essential services to which the Court Order applies were electrical services, fire services, health services, sewerage services, water services and transport and telecommunication services necessary to the operation of any of the foregoing services.The majority of the affected employees in essential services failed to adhere to the Court Order, despite numerous ultimatums by the employer urging them to return to work. 
This eventually led to dismissals of all employees who had failed to report for duty on the 16th May 2011 and thereafter.  The total number of employees dismissed to date is Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty (2, 460).

 These include, but not limited to, 1, 850 dismissed employees from the Ministry of Health; 58 employees from the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Resources; 252 from Local Authorities, being employees from fire, sewerage and electrical services; 174 employees from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science & Technology; and 38 Civilian Personnel from the Botswana Defence Force.

Mong wame, Modulasetilo, Beng bame, Maloko a Ntlo Ya Dikgosi,

 On the 18th of May 2011, the Employer made an unconditional offer of 3% salary adjustment effective 1st of September 2011, and requested the employees to return to work. In response the Unions expressed their willingness to accept the 3% offer on condition that the total value of the 3% be distributed across the pay structure in a pyramid form; dismissed employees in essential services are reinstated; and the 'no work, no pay rule' is rescinded before employees return to work. However, the Employer maintained the unconditional offer of 3% inflationary adjustment across the board effective 1st September 2011, and urged employees to go back to work while their other demands will be negotiated upon their return.

This is the situation as of now. I thank you.

 

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