PALAPYE: Trade unions have been urged to learn to appreciate when government does things right and admonish it for what it is doing wrong.
Manual Workers Union chief executive officer (CEO), Johnson Motshwarakgole said during his address to the Palapye Region union members on Tuesday at Mabogo Junior Secondary School (JSS) that government’s visible efforts in improving public servants’ welfare must be appreciated.
The trade unions kingpin was giving members the outcome of the PEMANDU negotiations. He referred to the 10% that was added by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to public employees’ salaries saying though the increment itself did not make much of a difference to manual worker’s pay, it was better than the three percent increase, which they usually received during former president Ian Khama’s tenure.
He said he understood very well that the increment was less for manual workers, especially since they earn low salaries and because of the fact that it had been a long time without a raise. However, Motshwarakgole said the trade unionists must remain hopeful, as an agreement has already been made with the government that next April there will be another 10% and six percent raise.
According to Motshwarakgole, the trade unions also negotiated with the government to help public employees by covering 80% of their medical aid costs instead of the 50% they have been paying. He said because of the low income, most manual workers had been living without medical aid something, which he said is not good, as workers’ health should be a priority. Now that he said the government has agreed to cover more percentage, he pleaded with manual workers to join medical aid schemes and pay only 20%.
He said trade unions must appreciate when things are done well adding that though they negotiated for 100% cover, 80% is still reasonable.
He also said it was worth appreciating the minimum wage salary enhancement, which was P1,600, but is now P2,100, which excludes allowances.
“This means that starting from October 1 the lowest paid public servants will earn more than P2,500 adding the house allowance. We should be grateful for that, we know it is not enough, but there is a difference,” Mothwarakgole said.
He said at Manual Workers they are grateful for the minimum wage improvement though that did not sit well with other trade unions that wanted ‘Ntlole’ like the soldiers and others deployed by the force.
“Of course there are some who would have benefited from Ntlole, but not manual workers because they earn less, so when skipped from scales instead of adding the agreed amount, minimum wage would still remain less than P2,000. Hence we chose to support the low paid public servants,” he added.
He was also of the view that trade unionists should not negotiate Ntlole as if they are jealous of those who benefited (the force). He said they should politely negotiate for it without referring to anyone as the government can afford that.
Motshwarakgole, who kept referring to Khama as ‘Tshimega’, said workers must be happy now that they are allowed to negotiate unlike in the Tshimega regime when workers had no say, as he took decisions alone without engaging anyone.
There are times when Motshwarakgole clearly indicated his support for Masisi as he believes that unlike Khama, he engages workers and listens to their pleas through their trade unions. During the meeting he told the trade unionists to utilise his initiatives like that of opening small businesses at their homes to make extra money.
He said that would help them afford to pay medical aid bills as well as funeral cover schemes, which are vital. He said, “Re ne re idiwa jaanong go buletswe (translated we were denied, now we are allowed to) so let’s take advantage and do something (with this opportunity).”
Meanwhile, in other issues the well-known unionist hinted that they are currently in talks with a certain bank, (which he could not name) so that it helps manual workers with attaining houses. He said they had agreed to engage a construction company through the bank and build two and half houses for members and allow them to pay in installments.
He said their struggle is to get their members out of poverty as that degrades people while stripping them of their dignity.