Lobatse Town Council and Botswana Land boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) have been instructed to stop violating the Employment Act by continually collecting subscription fees from former members of the union.
Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane last week ordered the council to stop deducting the subscription fees from its employees after they cancelled their membership with the union and ordered the union to reimburse all the money they are withholding unlawfully.
The 66 employees had taken the employer and the union to court in 2017 seeking the two parties to stop unlawfully deducting money from their salaries as a subscription to the union since they had cancelled their membership through a notice.
Justice Rannowane when delivering the judgment said the town council was violating the Employment Act by continuing to withhold the union subscription fees after being instructed by individual employees to stop deductions.
“The town council should stop the deductions and the union to reimburse the claimants all monies unlawfully withheld by them,” he said.
He explained that the employees had given the employer a notice in writing and a month’s notice to discontinue the deductions but the employer did not do so under the pretext that the notices were unprocedural and continued.
The Chief Judge pointed out that by ignoring the employees’ demand, the employer acted unlawfully.
“The provisions outlined shows that once an authorization is granted by the employee for such deductions to take place, the employee is equally entitled to withdraw such authorization,” he
Rannowane further explained that the provision’s showed the centrality of the employee’s consent in relation to any deductions from his/her salary thus no deductions from such salary by the employer cannot be lawful unless consented to and authorized by him or her where such deductions constitute statutory obligations by the employer or fall within the other exceptions.
Furthermore he noted that the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act protected the right or the power of the employee to approve or consent to any withdrawal.
“The employer appears to be the meddlesome interloper in affairs that do not concern it. The contract was between the employees and their union and the employer was in my view a mere conduit pipe through which the subscriptions to the union had to be routed,” reads the judgment.
At the backdrop of the matter is the 66 employees led by Keabetswe Sera through their attorney Uyapo Ndadi had made an application to court seeking orders against the town council and the union.
In their filed papers the employees accused the two of unlawfully deducting and withholding their money without consent.
They accused the respondents who were represented by Martin Dingake of defending the matter to pursue self serving interests while they were suffering a great deal of injustice.