Party will soon be over regarding some allowances
IMF calls for reforms in civil service, parastatals
New allowances & benefits policy coming in JulyTrade unions fuming, vow to punish Masisi and BDP
Civil servants and parastatals employees are facing a rude awakening brought by huge cuts in allowances, as government attempts to trim an unaffordably high wage bill through a new allowances and benefits policy recommended by the International Monetary Fund ( IMF), The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
The IMF which has for a long time called government to reduce the wage bill again reiterated its stance on civil service reform must be priority when it concluded 2021 Article IV mission to Botswana last week. IMF, a Bretton Woods Institution, has recommended to government that fiscal reforms are needed and they include the reform of the civil service as well as rationalization of parastatals.
But trade unions are unhappy with the proposal, saying it handicaps workers. The Patriot on Sunday has established that consultations will soon commence with the trade unions as government is anticipating to table a Draft Allowances and Benefits Policy in July Parliament session. Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOGPAPA) Kabo Morwaeng has been directed to consult with the Attorney General on the matter before engaging the trade unions.
The IMF and World Bank have estimated that government wage bill is very high and needs to be reduced through downsizing of the public service among others, a move that gain traction.
According to impeccable sources close to developments within the employer, Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), the proposal targets to scrap perks such as per diem and entertainment allowances extended to senior government officials and CEOs of the parastatals.
Government motive is to reduce its wage bill after it has also frozen 50% recruitment for vacant posts so as to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 as stated by former Minister of Finance. Dr Thapelo Matsheka.
“There is a new push for civil servants’ perks cuts through a new impending policy to control allowances earned by employees in the public sector. There are concerns that there has been proliferation of allowances and distortions in remuneration making some civil servants to earn close to three times their basic pay. If proposed Draft Allowances and Benefits policy is adopted, will cap such benefits for civil servants. Government want to reduce wage bill,” confided a source.
Meanwhile labour unions particularly Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) have raised the red flag and concerns over IMF recommendations.
BOFEPUSU president Johannes Tshukudu said that the trade unions were not even part of the last week discussions between government and IMF noting that that undermined trade unions.
According to him, government should conduct its own study on the public service wage bill rather taking baseless orders from the neoliberal institutions such as World Bank and the IMF. “We very are worried that the government has excluded labour unions and the Public Service Act on its talks with IMF. We will not agree with anything regarding IMF reforms. This technical means that people will lose jobs as well as amenities and government didn’t consult us on how it will sustain employees outside formal business when it agrees to IMF reforms,” said Tshukudu.
He noted unions will confront DPSM Director Goitseone Mosalakatane and minister responsible for public service Kabo Morwaeng should they find it a need to brief them from recent talks with IMF.
Both minister Morwaeng and Mosalakatane were not available for comment at time of going to print.
In addition, discontented BOFEPUSU president noted that president Mokgweetsi Masisi and his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will suffer the repercussions if they don’t tread carefully. Tshukudu indicated that Masisi made promise ahead of the 2019 general elections such as the creation of employment and bargaining cordially with the unions but he failed to stick to his word.
Public service labour movements had been criticizing Masisi and DPSM for over unfulfilled promises such as revival of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and adoption of PEMANDU salary report.
Back in 2019, civil servants threatened to paralyse service delivery by engaging in the massive demonstrations to force government to resume negotiations with trade unions, and implement recommendations contained in the PEMANDU report which the unions still want it implemented.
Tshukudu stated that the trade unions are disgruntled over number of issues that affect welfare or conditions of service during Covid-19 but they can’t demonstrate due to state of public emergency.
“Should it have been not the SOE regulation that prohibits right to strike, we could have taken a serious action against government. This country is in a state of confusion and the current Masisi government is not willing to address that. We will deal with this government in future,” he said.
However, careful of the consequences to the civil servants voting patterns regarding issues such as retrenching, one BDP MP says government should exercise caution regarding proposals by IMF.
The MP said it will be suicidal for the government to reform the civil service while on the hand has frozen vacant posts at the moment indicating that Botswana should be firm to reject IMF.
“We are going to the 2024 elections and we have to be very careful about messing with all the employees’ welfare whether in public service or private sector. We saw what happened in 2019 elections when the BDP performed badly under Khama due to his bad relation with both trade unions and civil servants. Trimming public service and borrowing loans from IMF will backfire,” voiced the MP.