‘Appeal Judges urge warring union leaders to dialogue’

Court of Appeal Judges, Ian Kirby, Isaac Lesetedi and Stephen Gaongalelwe today urged leaders of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the Botswana Public Employees Union(BOPEU to amicably solve the impasse over representation at the Public Service Bargaining Council(PSBC).

The Court of Appeal Judges warned that if the conflicting parties could not reach an agreement, the courts would unilaterally impose a ruling on them on the 10th May 2016. A similar sentiment was expressed by Industrial Court Judge Tebogo Maruping, who suggested the parties should go for mediation.

BOFEPUSU spokesperson Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, said "People need to remember that we are the respondents in this matter and that we have advised our lawyers to seek a settlement if possible. This is important because there is an impression that we do not want to go to mediation. That is not the case."

He said, "It does not mean we will abandon our principles. We will fight to protect integrity of the Public Service Bargaining Council(PSBC). But we will not agree to everything. Our lawyers have drafted a set of orders for discussion."

A stumbling block is an interpretation of section 6 and 7 of the constitution of the Public Service Bargaining Council(PSBC) on the threshold for membership.

It is stipulated at section 6.1 that any trade union may be admitted into the Council provided the trade union has been recognized at the workplace level in accordance with the provision of section 46 of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008 or any other Act in place before the commencement of the Public Service Act, 2008.

In addition to 6.1 it is averred that a trade union shall represent at least one third of the membership of all recognized trade unions whose members are public officers in terms of Public Service Act, 2008 to be admitted into the Council.

However when two or more unions establish an 'acting jointly arrangement,' under section 7 of the Constitution they must submit information stipulated under Article 6.2 to the General Secretary, who shall notify the PSBC at its next meeting about such an arrangement.

Deputy Secretary General of BOPEU Ketlhapeleng Karabo, said, "For us at BOPEU we wanted the threshold to be reduced to accommodate all public sector unions. We wanted a cut off point at 5,000. It would allow unions like BOSETU(7000), BTU(8000) and (BLLAWHU) (7000) to join PSBC. The constitution stipulates members should have at least 1/3 unionized members."

He said, "The belief is that both parties can sit down and agree on decreasing the threshold to include all recognized trade unions. BOFEPUSU have advised us that their lawyer will write to us with their proposals. We will be waiting for them to see what their proposals are."

Karabo revealed the Industrial Court had asked the conflicting parties to go for mediation but BOFEPUSU had rejected this proposal in pursuit of legal action.

"If we fail to agree the Court will now decide," said Karabo. He maintained, "No union meets threshold set by PBSC. Not event Manual Workers Union. It can only be met when unions convene as a collective.

Officials say there are 107,000 unionized members in the public sector.


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