Court to rule on BOPEU, BURS tussle

BURS strike outside their headquarters
BURS strike outside their headquarters

The Industrial Court has reserved judgement in the ongoing tussle between the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS).

BOPEU had recently taken the BURS management to court over what the union alleged to be the intimidation of striking members.

On Thursday, Judge Tapiwa Marumo reserved judgment to September 28, 2015 after the two parties argued their case. BURS workers went on strike some weeks ago demanding salary adjustments. Processes at the revenue agency have since slowed down, with negotiations yet to yield a solution.

During that time, the union representing striking workers accused BURS of intimidating its members and dragged them to the Industrial Court on urgency, arguing that the BURS management was intimidating striking workers by sending out letters with demands. The letters have since been suspended through an interdict until the final judgement of the case.

The union through their attorney, Joseph Akoonyatse, had argued that the union was unhappy that BURS management had “gone behind the labour body” to engage workers.

He said the move was an act of bad faith and had been carried out to intimidate striking workers. “My client felt the management wanted to scare and exploit the workers by telling them to sign papers failing which they would be listed and locked out of their respective offices,” he said.

Akoonyatse further said BURS management had violated one of the strike rules relating to the intimidation, threatening or otherwise undermining employees’ right to participate in the strike.  The strike rules were agreed upon at the beginning of the industrial action last month.

However, BURS maintained that the letters were given and signed on voluntary basis, and that no one was forced or intimidated to sign. Meanwhile, BOPEU was recently given an interim interdict regarding the letters until the final judgement is delivered. BURS was interdicted from continuing with the issuing of the letters until the court case is finalised.

The letters, which circulated in local media earlier last month read:

 “I confirm that I wish to voluntarily approach management with a view to return to work. I shall not be seen in any manner to be participating in a go-slow during working hours; I shall not interfere with the security of BURS facilities either electronically or others; the BURS General Conditions of Service shall continue to apply to me and I advise that I understand the above conditions and accept to be bound by them in full”.

The striking workers have since all gone back to work on free will to engage in a go-slow if they so wish, until the judgement or a solution is reached between the two parties.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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