The Industrial Court has partially ruled in favour of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) in a matter in which the union had taken Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) to court over failure to extend salary adjustments to its unionised staff.
BOPEU had taken the housing parastatal to court on a matter of urgency on behalf of the latter’s employees who are its members. This was after BHC had failed to meet the deadline to pay its unionised employees salary adjustments for the 2020/21 financial year by 12 noon December 23, 2020.
In response to the union’s application, BHC had raised six preliminary points of law bordering on procedural matters.
It argued that the applicant’s notice of representation was undated and therefore irregular, the signatory to the resolution has not been disclosed and that some documents were written in vernacular and were not supported by confirmatory affidavits therefore not admissible in court.
The Corporation also argued that the deponent did not initiate the founding affidavits and are therefore irregular and that the application has not met the standard of emergency.
However, Justice Isaac Bahuma agreed with BHC on two points only and dismissed the rest and ruling that the matter needed to be dealt with urgently.
Bahuma concurred with the Corporation that letters annexed to the founding affidavit should be written in court’s official language (English) and therefore should be expunged from the record.
“Even if I can read and understand Setswana, this court record is not about me, it
Bahuma dismissed the other preliminary points on the basis that they were procedural and therefore would not result in the miscarriage of justice even if they were disregarded.
“The procedural issues raised by the respondent, whilst valid, are in my view such that, if disregarded, they would not result in any miscarriage of justice. No issue turns on the authenticity of the documents filed or the status of the signatories. Furthermore, even if the procedural defects complained of were not attended to, such would not change the direction nor complexion of this case,” he added.
On the point of urgency, the judge said the reason advanced by the union that there is no substantial redress in due course because its members could decamp is reasonable and therefore succeeds.
According to court papers, the parties had been locked in back and forth salary increment negotiations for BHC’s employees since June 2020 until the respondent made a decision to implement salary adjustments to its non-unionised employees, a move which is the subject of this matter.