The wage subsidy impasse

Kabelo Adamson

“Govt will come after non-complying businesses” warns Balopi

The wage subsidy provided by government to cushion the private companies’ employees’ wages has caused a rift between workers and their employees.

A number of workers are furious at being paid half salaries for April even though their companies received claims from Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS).

Given the economic implications caused by Covid-19, which saw the country go into lockdown on April 3, government proposed measures to mitigate the situation for private companies.

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Government has covered employees monthly wages with a minimum of P1, 000 and maximum of P2, 500.

This means if someone’s salary is P1, 500, the wage subsidy would be P1, 000 and for someone earning P8, 000, the subsidy would be P2, 500.

However, several workers employed by local businesses have accused their employers of only paying them the subsidy and not topping up with a single Thebe from the company’s coffers.

The Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mpho Balopi has acknowledged that his ministry is dealing with such complaints.

Balopi said government was working around the clock to address the matter to a point of setting up a call centre where complaints can be channeled to.

“We have seen a lot of companies taking the subsidy and paying employees and we have also seen that other companies, some even contracted by government, are not paying people. They are using Coronavirus as an excuse!” noted the Minister.

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He warned that his Ministry will be ‘going after’ those companies that are not paying people.

“We have not suspended the Employment Act or the Industrial Relations Act. However, when it comes to Covid-19, we said nobody is going to be retrenched without engaging government on the basis of why you are subjecting those people to that,” stressed the Labour minister, adding there are a lot of these companies and government has a list of them.

Balopi says together with the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Peggy Serame, a joint statement will be issued to businesses and employees ‘soon’.

“It is very important to understand that we are not going to leave this thing without dealing with it,” reiterated Balopi, further declaring that government will not allow businesses to put their employees into forced leaves.

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