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Retrenchment unmasks the real war at BPC

Publishing Date : 06 September, 2017


There is a purpose as to why government had to change management at Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) to the extent of sacrificing the indigenization approach for the leadership of the limping organization.

While the latest indications point only to cost cutting and containment, it is evident that government was not happy with the glaring failure of the BPC and its heavy losses. Fast forward, BPC CEO, Stefan Schwarzfischer is at work, shedding load in the form of Batswana employees at the Corporation. He is convinced that they are the waste, they are the cost.  

Together with his Human Resource team, the CEO has attracted the wrath of axed and serving employees because of what employees see as double standards. Batswana with superior qualifications and experience have been retrenched while at the same time the corporation is engaging contract companies that employs expatriates of inferior qualification.

With the BPC is already at loggerheads with its employees and former employees over the ongoing retrenchment exercise which is intended to achieve a streamlined organization. Management claims that a review of the overall results of the individual staff performance appraisals for the financial year ending 31st March 2017 and that of the Corporation as a whole indicates a gross mismatch between the performance of the Corporation and that of individual employees.

But reports by employees on the ground are such that there are many cases of favouritism and witch hunt. “Employees who have questioned some management malpractices in the past are being targeted through the retrenchment exercise,” alleges one plant operator in Palapye where the heaviest blow was felt.

Most of the employees who were recently retrenched in Palapye had questioned the introduction of clocking machine for citizen employees whereas there no such machine at BPC depots elsewhere. Employees had indicated that the introduction of the machine was against the BPC HR manual or policy. Steag which has been engaged by the BPC on consultancy basis has in fact replaced BPC staff. Employees allege that the Steag bill far outweigh the retrenched employees wage bill.

One retrenched employee told this publication that he had complained about unfair treatment by one of the expatriate colleagues only to receive a retrenchment letter the next morning. “I am actually more qualified than the expatriate I am talking about, but they chose to keep him and boot me out,” he says.  He further stated that they have lost hope on lodging appeals or complaints because some in management and in the Board own flats that they have rented out to the expatriate workers, “so they cannot retrench them because they are paying their flats,” he claimed.

Citizen employees, most of whom have been retrenched now, had questioned some decisions such as the appointment of expatriates as forklift operators. As citizens continue to be shown the door at BPC, contract companies and their employees continue to enjoy bonuses for “no load loss”   and vacuum trucks are hired at the tune of P1.5 million per month despite working for a few days in a given month. By the account of these employees it is evident that cost is only justified when the money pays them but it becomes a different story when contract companies and expatriates are involved.

So far about 600 employees have been laid off and the target is to reduce the BPC work force by 1200 people. The actions of the Corporation’s well paid executives are a complete contrast to the reasons advanced for executing the ongoing retrenchment exercise which is meant to bring down costs at the loss making Power Corporation.



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