Govt drags striking doctors to court

Bame Piet
GOING SLOW: BDU demand their concerns to be addressed

The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) has launched an urgent legal action against doctors employed in the public service seeking an order to force them to return to wards after hours, and stop the go-slow they are currently embarking on.

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DPSM wants the Industrial Court to declare the industrial action by members of Botswana Doctors Union (BDU) employed as doctors to be enumerated as essential services and therefore their strike to be considered a breach of the Trade Disputes Act (CAP 48:02) and unlawful.

It also wants an order; “Interdicting and restraining the Respondents and its members employed in the Health Services listed as essential services and/or who render essential services who are currently on strike and/or industrial action from breaching the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act,” reads court papers from DPSM filed earlier today.

DPSM also wants the doctors to stop breaching the provisions of the Collective Agreements concluded between BDU and DPSM, as well as desist from breaching their contracts of employment by participating in the unlawful strike.

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DPSM Director Gaone Macholo further wants BDU to intervene and take reasonable steps to ensure that their members who fall under classification of health services of the essential services conduct themselves within the law.

In her Founding Affidavit, Macholo said the parties had initially agreed to encourage their constituents to act in ways which develop trust; to be participative in responding to challenges; and to work as partners to develop outcomes, which benefit all.

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“All parties shall negotiate in good faith and endeavor to reach mutually acceptable solutions to all disputes which may arise between them and they shall consult each other when they anticipate that disputes may arise,” she said.

She added that among others, the parties agreed that they shall not cause, or take part or support any industrial action.

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The Government and Public Sector Trade Unions, including Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and BDU agreed on Doctors Emergency Duty Call allowance on 5 April 2023, that the government will pay 15 % Doctors Emergency Call Allowance effective September 2022; that the Allowance arrears be paid in May 2023; and that the doctors acceptance of the 15% was on condition that on or before 31 July 2023 the parties should have met and concluded some outstanding issues.

Among the issues were the formulation of Doctors Emergency Call policy; Doctors Emergency Call duty contract; Doctors Emergency call duty roster/schedule for rest days at health facilities.

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“I am informed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, and verily believe such information to be true and correct that the Respondent’s members who are eligible for the Emergency Call allowance have been paid both the allowance arrears as at September 2022 and as at the time of deposing to this affidavit, the said beneficiaries are drawing the allowance,” she said.

Macholo added that the only outstanding issues are the policy, contracts, and roster.

The disgruntled doctors, through BDU, have since demanded for the outstanding issues to be addressed urgently before they can attend to emergency calls.

The matter will be heard by Justice Anna Mphetlhe of the Industrial Court on Monday afternoon.

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