Unions push for 5% wage increase as talks start


Unions representing public servants in the upcoming wage negotiations with government are expected to push for a five percent across increase, based on the prevailing higher prices of goods and services, Mmegi has established.

With inflation recently hitting a 13-year high, unions are arguing that the cost of living has gone beyond the reach of their members, with food, fuel and medical aid prices increasingly difficult to reach.

Average food prices, in particular, have risen by seven percent in the past 12 months, with the prices of cooking oil in particular jumping by nearly 28%, according to Statistics Botswana data.

The Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) is expected to submit its position paper to government on salary increase soon.

Insiders confirmed to Mmegi this week that civil servants’ representatives would be aiming for a five percent increase across the board to ensure broader coverage of all workers. The target increment could have been higher, but unions want to accommodate the impact of COVID-19 on government’s finances, Mmegi was informed.

“We hope that negotiations will go smoothly as government promised because earlier this year, they declared that there would no salary increase,” an insider close to the latest development said. “Life is very expensive and there is no way the government can avoid increasing workers' salaries. “Government should be committed to resuscitating the bargaining council because this issue of salary increases could have long been dealt with fairly.”

No official confirmation of the union’s proposed increment could be released by Press time yesterday, with the BOFEPUSU secretary-general, Tobokani Rari saying he could only state that negotiations had started.

“We had a preparatory meeting for the negotiations to officially begin, which is a development for both sides. “We have to complete the rules of engagement soon, which will be the ones guiding us when we negotiate. As soon as both parties are ready, then we will meet. “I cannot share internal information on what percentage increment we want as we have to engage the government on it. “We have agreed that our issues be kept internal from both parties,” he said.

This year’s civil service negotiations are expected to be tense as a leaked memo from government last month announced that the poor state of the budget meant no increment could be awarded to civil servants.

A demonstrator hold placard as hundreds of Botswana public servants take part in a rally in Gaborone, to mark the first anniversary of a two-month strike that brought the country to a standstill PIC: PRESS PHOTO
A demonstrator hold placard as hundreds of Botswana public servants take part in a rally in Gaborone, to mark the first anniversary of a two-month strike that brought the country to a standstill PIC: PRESS PHOTO

“We hope you are aware of the country’s current economic situation. This includes facts like successive budget deficits since 2019-2020 to date, the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the savingram addressed to the six public service trade unions and signed by acting DPSM director, Samuel Rathedi.

Rathedi requested the unions to “defer negotiations for salary increment and other conditions of service pending improvement of our economic situation”.

Unions denounced the memo as 'day-dreaming', while government officially distanced itself from the communication saying it had not been authorised.

Civil servants received increments ranging from six to 10 per cent in the 2019-2020 as well as 2020-2021 financial years. The increments, together with the impact of COVID-19, have been blamed for widening the budget deficits, which in turn forced a range of tax and levy increases in April 2021 on the part of the government.

The higher taxes and increases in other administered prices such as electricity, Botswana Housing Corporation rentals and fuel pump prices have caused inflation to trend at nine-year levels since June last year.

The finance ministry has announced measures to cut back the civil service wage bill from this year, through restructuring. For the 2022-2023 financial year, government expects to spend P28.3 billion on civil service salaries, a level which when calculated as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product, is higher than other similar economies.

Editor's Comment
A step in the right direction

That is indeed a welcome development, especially looking at the fact that the manual way of doing things is slowly disappearing and competency in the use of computers and other digital gadgets has become a must.The simple way of looking at it is just an example that almost all companies have gone completely digital and school leavers will be better placed after leaving school, because they will already be familiar with the use of computers.The...

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