Mmegi Online :: Retrenchment turns ugly at BPC
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Last Updated
Tuesday 27 June 2017, 23:25 pm.
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Retrenchment turns ugly at BPC

A retrenchment exercise at Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) that could reportedly shed 600 jobs, has turned ugly with workers alleging intimidation, two-day dismissals and a descent of a veil of menace in the organisation.
By Mbongeni Mguni Baboki Kayawe Fri 16 Jun 2017, 18:04 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Retrenchment turns ugly at BPC








The retrenchment is part of restructuring under the Masa2020 strategy within which the BPC expects to return to profitability in three years’ time. 

New CEO, Stefan Schwarzfischer and an overhauled team of executives are leading the strategy, which is supported by the Board and the parent ministry. However, workers allege the exercise has turned into a witch-hunt after about 900 workers dumped their internal union and approached the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) for membership.

The workers dumped the BPC Workers Union after claiming it had blithely allowed management to change the retrenchment formula, while also working hand in glove with management to keep workers in the dark about developments around the exercise.

The workers allege that in the current climate, they are being hounded to apply for voluntary separation, which is reportedly running alongside an ‘involuntary separation’ exercise.

Documents seen by Mmegi indicate that the corporation’s industrial relations department wrote a series of notices exhorting staff to apply for voluntary separation by April 3, warning several times about the deadline.  Other department heads also sent similar notices to their staff, but also indicated an extension had been granted.

In one notice, the head of the industrial relations department noted that the responses to voluntary separation were unimpressive.

Those workers who opt for voluntary separation are given a package of 30 days for every year worked, while those who do not, and are subsequently retrenched, will only receive 27 days per year worked.

The original formula, workers say, was 45 days per year worked, which was allegedly changed in what they called "secret meetings between the BPC Union and management". “A lot of people who applied did not do so out of free will, but out of fear of the memos the industrial relations department kept sending out saying people should apply, and apply quickly,” insiders told Mmegi yesterday.

“Those who left the union and joined the NALCGPWU appear to be targeted as they are being intimidated. Once your separation is approved, they call and say you must leave within two days or tell you to switch off your machine.” Workers said the retrenchment exercise

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was being done without a structure that would enable informed decisions on whether to apply for voluntary separation or the actual numbers that will be shaved off.

In January, Schwarzfischer told journalists 200 workers would be targeted in the first part of a two-phased retrenchment exercise aimed at cutting up to 30% of the corporation’s costs. BPC insiders say the number is likely to rise to more than 600 this year, representing a chunk of the total 2,350 workers the corporation employs countrywide.

The new CEO and his changing ExCo are reportedly under pressure to implement sweeping changes under Masa2020 and deliver a leaner, meaner BPC that has been weaned off the billions in annual subsidies.

However, with the years racing to 2020, workers allege the rush to cut jobs has seen an end of consultation and arbitrary decisions taken by the management and the BPC Union. “The separation formula was changed with notice to the union, who did not inform workers, while the Collective Labour Agreement was also changed and a new one signed with the union, without our knowledge,” insiders alleged. “Workers were counselled last year on the retrenchment exercise, not knowing that the package would be changed.

That counselling was therefore useless, because there was a greater shock in store.” The Manual Workers Union, meanwhile, has dragged the BPC to court demanding recognition, after its swoop on the 900 workers. Efforts to obtain comments from the corporation and BPC Union were fruitless yesterday evening.

However, the BPC Union has launched a suit against the corporation on the retrenchment with a court date due in September. In January, the CEO said the restructuring would affect all levels within the corporation.

“We expect the first phase, which should affect about 200 people, to be complete in the next four to five months. Cleaning and car maintenance services were outsourced two years ago and yet the workers are still employed by BPC. It’s such kind of cleaning up that we need to do,” Schwarzfischer said.

The BPC has been running operational losses for years, which amounted to P2bn in 2015-2016, P1.3bn in 2014-2015 and P1.6bn in 2013-2014.

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