FNB appeals against increment freeze order

First National Bank (FNB) is appealing against last month's ruling by the Industrial Court that they should freeze salary increments for non-unionised employees.

The Industrial Court ordered the bank to cease the payment of salary increments to non-unionised employees until negotiations with the Botswana Bank Employees Union are over. 

This followed an application by the union seeking an order to that effect.  The union's concern was that while they were still negotiating for a salary increase, the bank went ahead to award an eight percent salary increase to non-unionised workers. 

FNB attorney, Mboki Chilisa confirmed that they are appealing against the ruling by Justice Tebogo Maruping. 

Chilisa revealed that the bank continues to pay the non-unionised employees the eight percent.  But the lawyer said the bank was not in contempt of court.   

He explained that according to the Industrial Court rules, the execution of an order is suspended once an appeal has been noted.   
He said the execution of the order is stayed until the final determination of the appeal.  "The order cannot be implemented if there is an appeal." said Chilisa.  The lawyer for the union, Joseph Akoonyatse said they are aware that the bank has not complied with the Industrial Court order because they are appealing against this ruling. 

Akoonyatse said he is still mapping the way forward with his clients.  He said they want to establish whether the bank's decision is justified. The union's lawyer said they want to establish whether the bank's decision can be challenged.

During the hearing of the dispute, Akoonyatse had submitted to court that his clients felt that the bank was undermining the spirit of collective bargaining which is recognised by the labour laws.  He said the constitution makes it clear that every individual has a right to join a union of his/her own choice.  "It is a fundamental right," the lawyer submitted. 

He went on to contend that his clients have suffered prejudice, adding that the negotiations between the two parties will be negatively affected.

He said it was imperative that the court set the bank's decision aside. "When we negotiate there is no party that must have the upper hand against the other. They must negotiate from an equal footing." 

Akoonyatse argued that the bank was acting in bad faith by offering non-unionised employees an eight percent increase. He said this move was meant to divide the union, adding that some union members have already resigned because of the carrot that was dangled before them by the bank.

But the bank's lawyer argued that a person praying for an interdict, had to approach the court with clean hands. 

He said while the union has accused his clients of acting in bad faith, they have also been guilty of the same conduct. He accused the union of making unreasonable demands during the negotiations.   The respondents in this matter were FNB and 103 non-unionised employees who were awarded the increase.  Speculation is rife that the bank is also settling the legal bill for the non-unionised employees.

Editor's Comment
A Call For Government To Save Jobs

The minister further shared that from the 320 businesses that notified the Commissioner of Labour about their plans to retrench, 20 were acceded to, which resulted in 204 workers being retrenched during April 2020 and July 2021.The retrenchments were carried out while the SoE was in place, meaning the companies that succeeded must have had solid reasons, despite the strict SOE regulations imposed on businesses to not retrench. We are left with...

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