Teacher unions consult on overtime

Maths teachers attending a workshop hosted by Maths Association of Botswana at Limkokwing
Maths teachers attending a workshop hosted by Maths Association of Botswana at Limkokwing

The two leading teacher unions will conduct nationwide consultations on the hours of work, overtime issue with particular reference to participating in sporting activities.

The secretary generals of Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), revealed that they have many incidences where the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has flatly refused to pay teachers after having been lawfully authorised and procedurally rendered service after normal hours and on rest days. “We are alive to the fact that some authorised overtime has been returned to schools unpaid across regions,” reads a letter to the teachers from Ibo Kenosi of BTU and Tobokani Rari of BOSETU.

The countrywide consultation process will commence from January 21 to 27, 2015.  “A detailed schedule with places, venues and times will follow. Meanwhile we advice teachers to suspend their participation in overtime activities pending the outcome of the consultation process,” the two wrote. They said with the implementation of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008, the hours of work for the whole of the public service were standardised in compliance with the international standards, that is, maximum of eight working hours per day.

“At the beginning of 2011 teacher unions conducted nationwide consultation with teachers on this matter and teachers resolved that they would stick to the eight hour working duration per day from 0730 hours to 1630 hours and would not work beyond these times including on rest days.

This brought sporting and some other academic activities done after hours and during weekends (rest days) to a halt. We saw 2011 and part of 2012 going without sporting activities. These also included perniciously the subject enrichment activities for example subject fairs and remedial teachings.”

It was then in 2012 that the MoESD through the then Permanent Secretary Grace Muzila opened dialogue once more with teacher unions regarding the impasse. The union bosses said it was agreed at these consultations that a joint (unions and MoESD) consultation process with teachers be conducted regarding the application of overtime to teachers as per provisions of the labour statutes.

“Following the consultation process it was agreed between teacher unions and MoESD that teachers could work overtime including during rest days and the overtime would be regulated by the provisions of the Public Service Act and the Employment Act. Teachers then resumed providing service after normal hours and during rest days as per authorisation by supervisors hence the commencement of sporting and educational enrichment activities.”

“It was apparent that the employer was reneging on the agreement that was arrived at back then in 2012 by altering the overtime conditions as provided for in the Public Service Act and the Employment Act.”

The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and the MoESD, have subsequent to the agreement authored various savingrams not only offensive to the provisions of the labour statutes regulating overtime, but also meant to deliberately exploit teachers.   ‘The DPSM specifically authored a circular Savingram referenced DP19/72VI(68) which was followed by a subsequent one from Permanent Secretary, MoESD referenced E3/2/21(116) which all purported that employees are required by law (could be forced) to work overtime and should be paid by days off, which in our view was a deliberate distortion of the statutes regulating overtime,” the union leaders wrote.

They said the MoESD through regional directors has also on several occasions issued various instructions varying and altering the overtime conditions as provided for in the labour statutes and during the process subjecting teachers to debilitating working conditions.

Of particular reference is the instruction issued at various regional offices requiring teachers to work overtime and be compensated by taking 50% of the days worked as day offs, and another 50% to be compensated in monetary form.

“As if not enough the days off, according to the MoESD,  can only be taken during school holidays. This took away the right of employees as provided for in the statutes to decide on how they should be compensated in case they have to work overtime.”

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