Background to UB Staff Salary adjustments
1. UB staff have not received an inflationary adjustment for five years. The last adjustment was in April 2018, yet, they still had not received any adjustment the previous year. Over these five years UB refused to adjust salaries, claiming that the Government has not given them enough funds to finance salary increments.
2. In the past, the UB management would adjust salaries automatically based on the increment made by Government for its public servants’ salaries. This changed in 2016 when UB Council claimed that since UB was not linked to Government, they were not obliged to adjust salaries following Government directives. This led to a protracted debate about inflationary adjustments at UB. Whilst UB Council held the view that adjustment can only be made following negotiations with Unions, UB management had a different view: they simply refused to enter any negotiations because they said they did not receive adequate funding from Government.
2022 salary negotiations
3. This year, on 18th May, UB and its Staff Union (UBSU) met over salary negotiations for the 2022/23 financial year. At this meeting UB management indicated that they did not have a mandate from their principals – the Executive Management Team (EMT) or the UB Council –to negotiate salaries. The meeting was adjourned to give Management the opportunity to seek necessary mandate.
4. On 20th of June the parties met again. This time UB management indicated that they cannot offer any increment as the Government has responded negatively to their request for funds to give employees an inflationary adjustment. This announcement was made beforehand, prior to UBSU tabling its proposals. UBSU then declared that the position of management was unacceptable, at which point the meeting adjourned. UBSU declared a dispute according to the parties’ Memorandum.
5. On 1st of August 2022 the parties met again and UBSU presented its proposal for salary adjustment for financial year 2022/23. UBSU proposed a 15% across the board (ATB) increment effective 1st April 2022. Alternatively, UBSU asked for 7% ATB plus incorporation of allowances into total pay and adjustments of medical aid benefits. Management did not reject or accept the UBSU proposal but requested that they be given time to consult with EMT and UB Council, which was agreed to.
Fourth meeting and Dispute
6. On 19th August the parties met yet again, to hear management feedback. Management indicated that UB Council was unable to make any decision on the issue but has constituted a small committee to look into the matter. UBSU did not accept the response from management and indicated that the dispute first declared on 20th June 2022 still stands.
UBSU briefs UB Council according to past practices
7. Amid the impending stalement, UBSU also took the initiative to write a brief to the UB Council through its Chairperson, appraising it on the dispute between the parties and how we arrived at the Dispute stage. The aim was to give the UB Council the workers’ perspective on the issue of salary increments, to assist the Council to decide.
Unfortunately, this brief was received with contempt by the UB Council Chairperson who felt that UBSU was trying to engage the Council directly on issues of salary negotiations.
8. Over the years, it has been a practice that upon declaration of a dispute the parties would draft a common statement stating each party’s position and sign it off. Based on this practice UBSU drafted the said statement on the 19th of August 2022. Management sat on the draft till this day.
Rereferral to Mediation
9. UBSU has thus exercised its right as per clause 11.4 of the MoA to refer the dispute for mediation at Gaborone Block 8 District Labour Office. Should mediation fail at Labour, UBSU would be left without any option but exercise its right to engage in Industrial action as per clause 12 of MoA. UBSU still hopes that management would experience a change of heart, to avert the possibility of a strike.
Legality of Press Release
10. This press release is made in line with clause 11.8 of the Memorandum of Agreement (herein MoA) between the University of Botswana (herein UB) and the University of Botswana Staff Union (herein UBSU).