Curtain closes on gov’t, nurses ‘Call to Duty’ feud

In the lower court, the nurses won the case where they had taken their employer to court seeking the discontinuation of the ‘Call to Duty’ PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
In the lower court, the nurses won the case where they had taken their employer to court seeking the discontinuation of the ‘Call to Duty’ PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG

In the long standing ‘Call to Duty’ case, the Court of Appeal (CoA) is expected to put to an end the 10-year-old feud between the government and nurses on October 31, 2023.

The final judgement will be delivered following the government’s refusal to accept the discontinuation of the ‘Call to Duty’ for nurses or pay overtime as per a recent Industrial Court judgement by Justice Galesite Baruti. The government, through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), lost the case against the nurses and decided to lodge an appeal in an attempt to cling to the long standing ‘Call to Duty’ practice, which the nurses have argued is an abuse they have endured for a long time. In the ‘Call to Duty’, nurses are expected to report to duty when required to do so beyond their working hours. In the lower court, the nurses won the case where they had taken their employer to court seeking the discontinuation of the ‘Call to Duty’. Through the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), the health workers argued that the ‘Call to Duty’ is illegal, encroaches on nurses' rest period and exposes them to abuse the by DPSM. The DPSM, represented by Oaitse Rammidi in its grounds of appeal, argued that the ‘Call to Duty’ has been part of the health profession and there is no way the Employment Act has been breached.

Rammidi explained that the ‘Call to Duty’ has been catered for in the nurses’ fixed 30% overtime allowance contrary to allegations by the nurses that it was not paid for. “The ‘Call to Duty’ arrangement is catered for in the employees’ 30% overtime allowance, which is also in line with the Employment Act. This simply means the Act has not been breached and that we have been compliant with it,” he said. However, the nurses are refusing to agree with the government that they are catered for and expected to work beyond their required working hours. The nurses’ lawyer, Mboki Chilisa, argued that the ‘Call to Duty’ ought to be paid as it forces the nurses to work overtime. He explained that the arrangement made by the DPSM was not reason enough for the nurses, more so that they are expected to go beyond the call of duty without being paid accordingly. “The Employment Act is clear in terms of how employees should be treated and it is not different for nurses. The government needs to pay or discontinue the ‘Call to Duty’ at once,” he said. While the government will be hoping for a turn of events, the nurses expect the apex court to finalise the matter by cementing Justice Baruti’s judgement.

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