May 30, 2011

Breakthrough in six weeks strike

In an effort to end the ongoing public servants' strike, the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has accepted the government's three percent offer in salary increments. However, the union has introduced novel conditions in the salary negotiations that will see government increase its wage bill by P500 million, most of which will go to low income earners. According to BOFEPUSU spokesman Goretetse Kekgonegile, the union decided to accept the three percent offer “of the three percent, which we will distribute in a pyramid form. We will make sure those who earn less get more". He emphasised the fact that the pyramid form had then replaced the 12 percent hike they had sought. He explained that the P500 million would be distributed in such a way that the lowly paid workers would get as high as 12 percent increment while the highest earner might get as little as three percent or nothing.

The unionist who was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with government said they are making great progress. He stated that in total, they offered government a package consisting of three priorities, topmost being the reinstatement of all fired workers and the waiver of no work no pay agreement. The third component is the three percent increment to be distributed in a pyramid form. Kekgonegile reiterated that the reinstatement of sacked workers and the reversal of the no work no pay agreement was crucial and they would continue striking if the demands were not met. He explained that the BOFEPUSU special congress resolved that the dismissed workers be reinstated as a matter of urgency and that when the demand was met, the strike would end. The BOFEPUSU spokesman also said that negotiations with government were adjourned. The adjournment came after government sought time to think over the union's demands. Kekgonegile said they have asked well-wishers to donate funds to the federation to take care of any eventuality in the bid to fight the no work no pay issue and the dismissals of essential workers. "There might be need to fight in the courts and we need money to fight for our members," he said. Even though he added that the strike would continue, the offer is a major breakthrough in the unprecedented 6-week bout of industrial action that forced schools and hospitals to close and unleashed a torrent of criticism against President Ian Khama. (Mmegi Online)

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