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Gov’t rejects monetised PEMANDU

Publishing Date : 12 August, 2019

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

Government negotiators in the on and off discussions on conditions of service for public servants have proposed a Remuneration Policy for the Public Service while also warning that “any consideration of the conditions of service for the public service that have financial implications should be approached with caution.”


The negotiators agree that pressure for competitive pay from various cadres in the public service has resulted in Government enhancing salaries for selected cadres through allowances or regarding certain cadres in isolation of others. “These adhoc and piecemeal approaches have distorted the public service pay system,” they state in their position paper.


It is evident from the position paper that Government has more or less adopted all the recommendations of the PEMANDU Associates report but not those with financial implications. Government is underpinning its arguments on the economic conditions globally and domestically – which they argue is characterised by sluggish economic activity compounded by uncertainty in global markets. While acknowledging positive growth of 4.5% in the domestic propelled by non-mining sectors, Government points to a declining global economy which grew by 3.6% in 2018 and is anticipated to only grow at 3.3% in 2019.


Budget proposals for the 2018/2018 overall balance is estimated at a deficit of P6.35 billion (or 3.3 percent of GDP), which is expected to worsen to P7.79 billion (or 3.8 percent of GDP) in 2019/2020. “The latter is largely accounted for by the recent salary adjustment. This worsening of fiscal position is against the Government’s commitment of achieving budget balance or surpluses in the second half of NDP 11. Continuing in this trajectory will lead the country into a non-sustainable economic growth pathway.


This is against the backdrop that Botswana’s wage bill is high by international standards, as it currently stands at 11.3 percent of GDP, against the international threshold of 5.0 percent of GDP. A high wage bill has negative impacts in the economy as it erodes Government  finances and therefore, needs to be compensated for by restraint in public spending, especially personnel emoluments, which account for a larger share in overall government recurrent expenditure,” reads the Government position  paper.


Government argues that it introduced the Scarce Skills Allowance in March 2013 in an endeavour to attract and retain those skills that were perceived to be scarce at the time.  “This was to be implemented for an interim period of 3 years whilst Government was working on introducing a broad banded pay structure. The broad banded structure was never introduced and the scarce skill allowance continued beyond the three years. The allowance no longer serves its purpose and has resulted in many challenges due to poor implementation resulting in endless litigation.”


PEMANDU Associates were engaged amongst others looking into the deferred recommendations through review of the Remuneration System. Government agrees that the public service salary rates are below market rates and not competitive in terms of attracting and retaining talent. “The gap is bigger at the higher grades,” states the report. 


“Ob average public service pay scales substantially lag behind the national citizen market by 28%, 40% and 55% for Grade A and B, Grade C and D and Grade E and above respectively. “The parastatal CEOs are earning more than Permanent Secretaries,” it reads. The report further states that there are too many fragmented allowances and benefits, which leads to complex administration and distortion of the salary structure (41 allowances and 56 deductions). Government is of the view that the PEMANDU Consultancy report on remuneration and performance management, including negotiations of other conditions of service should be discussed separately from salary negotiations.


THE UNION PARTY IS NOT HAPPY


“We note with concern that the Employer Party has taken the view that the substantial salary adjustments awarded to the Disciplined Forces are irrelevant to the current negotiations, ostensibly because the Disciplined Forces are not governed by the Public Service Act (PSA).”
Unions observe that it is unfortunate that merely because of the artificial divide created by four constitutive statutes, the PSA, the Botswana Defence Force Act, the Police Act and the Prisons Act, the employer party fails to appreciate that these statues govern employees of the same government, who serve the same public and are resourced from the same pool.


They argues that any decision that unreasonably favours one or more of these categories of government employees that excludes one or more of the others, is inevitably invidious to the excluded party (parties), and therefore constitutes an unfair labour practice.  “This is the reason the salary structures of the disciplined have historically mirror that of the “Public Service”. Indeed, public sector salary adjustment are routinely extended to the disciplined forces. This happens, not as a matter of tradition and custom, but rather as a result of the substantive reality that these cadres are employed by the same government and serve the same public as those governed by the PSA.”


UNION PROPOSALS

Taking into account the quarter one adjustments to the salaries of the disciplined forces, the Union Party recommends as follows:

Remove the A3 Band of the public sector salary structure: This will action will move the entry level salary in the public towards the P30000/annum recommended by the Union Party during the February 2019 salary negotiations and position the lowest paid workers to qualify for the public sector pension scheme.


Move every cadre one band up the public sector salary structure: This, as Table 3.5 shows, means that A3 becomes A2, A2 becomes A1…, and F1 becomes F0.  This will have the effect of restoring parity between Directors and their equivalents in the disciplined forces. Below D1, the adjustment will narrow the gap between public sector cadres and their equivalents in the disciplined forces by one band. For instance, the entry band for fresh university graduates will move from C3 to C2 compared to D4 for the disciplined forces.


Consistent with the recommendations of the De Villiers Commission, public servants should be provided with accommodation or be paid a housing allowance of 15% of basic salary in lieu of accommodation. Accommodation is a big source of pay iniquity between the public service and the disciplined forces, and within the PSA governed part of the public service.

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