BURS strike threatens fuel, food security

As the BURS industrial strike enters its second day, there are fears that fuel and food imports are likely to be badly affected
As the BURS industrial strike enters its second day, there are fears that fuel and food imports are likely to be badly affected

It is a matter of time before Botswana is hit by a serious shortage of fuel and food because of the industrial strike by employees of the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS).

More than 1,000 members of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) last week embarked on an industrial action against BURS following a protracted battle over salary increment. Yesterday morning Mmegi team visited Tlokweng and Ramatlabama border posts and was met with desperate situation in which few employees who had reported for work were overwhelmed by the workload. From the border side of neighbouring South Africa, no vehicles were allowed to cross the border into Botswana. Only four customs personnel were manning the counters at Ramatlabama. Dozens of trucks were stranded because they could not be allowed into the country without being scanned. As the employees downed tools, the scan and the control room was closed. According to some strikers, only technicians operate the scanner hence the control rooms at Ramatlabama and Tlokweng border posts were closed. “We are achieving what we want, to force the employer back to the bargaining table,” said Edward Tswaipe, a convener of the strike at Tlokweng border post. Tswaipe claimed that they were close to achieving 100 percent of BURS personnel on strike. Members of the Botswana Police Service and Directorate of Intelligence and Security were keeping an eye on the situation at both border posts. Tswaipe revealed that the industrial action continues today. Meanwhile, the BOPEU leadership has dispatched a letter to the management of BURS urging them to respect the Collective Labour Agreement signed by both parties. This was after BURS management pleaded with BOPEU members who wish to come to work to report to their supervisors for deployment. In the letter to BURS dated July 24, the BOPEU vice president Sikalame Seitiso said: “It is highly unfortunate and regrettable that the employer will expressly and deliberately act in direct violation of a valid and legally binding Collective Labour Agreement. As an employer, BURS cannot be heard to be encouraging our members to act in defiance of a resolution of the union”. He said similarly, BURS should not place itself in a position where it makes direct pleas or overtures to BOPEU members in relation to the ongoing industrial action. “We wish to place BURS, and the office of the acting commissioner general in particular, to immediately desist from the kind of conduct that we note from your memorandum as indicated above.” Seitiso said BOPEU would not hesitate to launch an urgent application to the court for orders compelling BURS, and the office of the acting commissioner general in particular, to conduct itself appropriately. “Please note that all of our members are participating in the ongoing industrial action,” said Seitiso. Efforts to get a comment from BURS communications specialist Refilwe Moono failed at press time as her mobile phone was off air.

Editor's Comment
A step in the right direction

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