The Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) is planning to approach the court to interdict government’s intention to terminate employment contracts of (coronavirus) COVID-19 Scorpions.
In May the government, through towns and district councils, engaged temporary COVID-19 Scorpions to ensure compliance to pandemic protocols and regulations. The workers were engaged at B3 salary scale.
However, a month later, the public was appalled when the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Eric Molale stated that the COVID-19 Scorpions’ contracts were erroneous and must be the same as those set for the public works programme (Ipelegeng) employees.
Subsequent to this, the Scorpions last week received several letters of intent to terminate their employment from respective local authorities on the basis of General Order 23. The decision has attracted much publicity, especially in Parliament where opposition Members of Parliament want government to rescind the decision.
On Friday, labour federation BOFEPUSU wrote to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development at the instance of COVID-19 Scorpions indicating their intention to approach the courts if government went ahead and terminated the employment of their members.
According to the federation’s deputy secretary general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa the decision is unlawful as it contradicts provisions of Section 26(1)(a) to (e) of the Public Service Act.
“We have had sight of templates and a savingram issued by your office directing the local authorities on how to implement General Order 23, we wish to bring to your attention
He said BOFEPUSU does not agree with the procedure adopted in an attempt to terminate the appointment of our members.
BOFEPUSU argues that Parliament in its wisdom found it appropriate to stipulate the manner in which employment within the Public Service terminates through provisions of Section 26(1)(a) to (e) of the Public Service Act.
Motshegwa said unless COVID-19 Scorpions appointments are terminated as stipulated by Section 26(1) of the Public Service Act, there exists no basis at law to justify termination of their employment.
“Take notice that we stand ready to challenge the envisaged terminations in court should you elect to proceed contrary to the law and our advise herein take notice that in the event the matter ends up at court, the employer would in the end incur the same liability as it relates to salaries,” read BOFEPUSU’s letter in part.
BOFEPUSU stated that it is aware that government may defend itself on the basis that the COVID-19 Scorpions were employed erroneously, which is not justified because the law does not give relief for errors of judgement.