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Strike action looms at BURS as salary talks collapse

MONKAGEDI GAOTHOBOGWE
Tax collection and customs services could be crippled for months if the declaration of strike action by the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) is realised.

On Friday, BOPEU declared strike action following the collapse of the mediation talks between the union and the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) before the Commissioner of Labour.

BOPEU president Andrew Motsamai told The Monitor that strike action is imminent at BURS, and that the union has started drawing the rules of the strike which could go on for two months or more. BOPEU have been pushing for a salaries and allowances increment for more than 1400 BURS employees, while the employer maintained that the increment should be at six percent offered by government for all government employees. BOPEU started their bargaining with BURS, asking for 15% salary increase, payment of 50% tuition fee for staff children and 100% for staff, five percent of basic salary as cell phone allowance to all staff and a cell phone voucher of P3000, as well as extension of overtime allowance to a category of employees known as BURS 5. Among others BOPEU submitted 10%  car allowances, 15% cell phones and monthly airtime, responsibility allowances for officers in charge and principal customs.

They also want allowances and incentives, including installation of Wi-Fi, interest access services, review of transfer allowances, housing allowances, subsistence allowances, risk allowance and remote

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area service allowance. BURS keeps three percent of all their tax collections, with one percent going to recurrent budget. Earlier the BURS commissioner argued that there was no way his workers could get over six percent while his salary is pegged at the public service Grade F0, in line with the wages policy.  However an urgent court action by BOPEU had the Industrial Court ruling that the BURS could not use the pegging of the CEO’s salary to the PS as reason for not negotiating.

BOPEU accuses the BURS of being unfair and dishonest in the negotiations as the employer decided to implement a six percent salary increment to non-unionised members and those of the Manual Workers Union. On the busy Friday, the Manual Workers Union also sought an urgent court order to have BURS members with dual membership to be included in the six percent salary increase that the Manual Workers Union and the BURS had extended to non-unionised members and their Sunion members.

The action failed at the Industrial Court, as judge T. B. Marumo ruled that both parties should sit down and discuss the issue of dual membership, or escalate their differences to the Commissioner of Labour.



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