Justice Galesite Baruti of the Francistown Industrial Court will in March put to rest a 10-year feud between nurses and government over Call to Duty Policy.
Following failure to reach common ground from engaging the employer, Department of Labour, and eventually getting a certificate of failure to settle from the Commissioner of Labour, the Industrial Court is set to determine the matter.
Nurses want government to discontinue Call to Duty, where they are expected to report to duty when required to do so beyond their working hours. Through the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), the health workers argue that Call to Duty is illegal, encroaches on nurses' rest period and exposes them to abuse by the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM). During the first stage of the case, the Francistown Industrial court dismissed the DPSM argument that BONU brought the matter to court too early.
The court ruled that the case should continue. BONU spokesperson Aobakwe Lesolame indicated that they viewed this as delaying tactics played by the employer party to deny nurses what they deserve.
He went on to say they are happy that the matter will eventually be put to finality. “We are looking forward to the judgement on the matter as we feel nurses have been getting a raw deal for a long time now. While other people work eight hours, nurses are expected to offer services as and when there is a patient who needs to be attended to without being compensated.
This has been going on since 2010 and we are happy it will finally be ruled upon,” Lesolame said. He said while government argues that the arrangement is catered for in their fixed 30% overtime allowance, it is not reason enough as they also work overtime hours. “Overtime is almost a daily thing for nurses as they most of the time knock off later than stipulated.
They accumulate the set 14 hours monthly in a short period as they are sometimes forced to travel with patients and even assist them beyond their eight hours daily,” he said. Lesolame said due to COVID-19, the matter dragged on for too long stating that they just wish the court will show that the Employment Act has been stumbled upon. “The case has dragged on for long and we are hoping to be vindicated. Call to Duty should be regularised with the Employment Act and comply with the laws of Botswana.
The judgement will be handed down before an open court on March 21, 2022. Mboki Chilisa is representing BONU while DPSM is represented by the Attorney General.