Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has denied accusations of unlawful breach of strike, picketing and lockout rules agreed between the union and Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS).
BOPEU secretary general Topias Marenga was responding to a charge of breach of strike rules levelled against them by BURS management. He said the union officials were at the headquarters’ assembly point on Friday the whole day and never witnessed any unlawful act. The allegations are contained in a letter the BURS management wrote BOPEU Monday accusing its members of unlawful breach of strike,
The management said on July 24, 2015 at or about 4:30pm, a number of BOPEU members who were on strike embarked on unlawful picketing at the BURS head office.
“They blocked the front gate of the BURS premises and prevented non- striking employees and members of the public from leaving or accessing BURS head office.
“In addition, your members disturbed peace by singing and chanting,” wrote BURS commissioner general Ken Morris.
Morris also said the aforesaid conduct by the strikers was a breach of provisions of the Trade Dispute Act and that it was clearly aimed at intimidating those employees of BURS who chose not to strike. “We advise that should you and your members persist with the said conduct, we reserve our right to approach court for appropriate relief, including an order declaring the strike unlawful.” In response, Marenga said that “it is an international norm and practice for strikers to chant and sing at their assembly points, therefore that cannot be deemed to be picketing.” Marenga also denied that the strikers were intimidating their colleagues who decided to report for work.
Instead he said they have consistently been receiving complaints from their members on strike that managers and some supervisors were persuading them against their choice, and instructing them to resume duties.
“Even those who are on leave are called to come back to work. Furthermore, your office has deployed the managers, security and law enforcement agencies with a view to intimidate our members who are on strike.”
In conclusion, the secretary general pleaded with BURS management to cease acts of intimidation against BOPEU with immediate effect. “If you can’t accede to our request, then we are more than ready to meet you in court.” Meanwhile, on Monday BOPEU and BURS signed a notification of industrial action in terms of Section 39 of the Trade Dispute Act. The parties agreed that this would be an indefinite strike in which employees would totally withdraw service or labour.