One of the largest manufacturing concerns in the country, the Lobatse-based PASDEC Automotive Technologies is involved in a protracted wrangle with its workers, with close to 200 on suspension indefinitely.
Relating the genesis of the crisis at PASDEC, a representative group of the suspended workers told Global Business that the impasse emanates from workers’ concerns about lack of: employment contracts, protective clothing; medical screening and the grading systems for remuneration.
In early 2017, after several attempts to engage management on their concerns, they decided to picket outside work for a week. The management at PASDEC, represented by the human resources manager, one Kegomoditswe Pilane Ganetsang took the matter to Court for what they deemed an illegal strike. However, the workers instead scored a court order to have their concerns addressed by management by August 31st of the same year.
However, no action was taken and the workers in March this year, after meetings and correspondences with management decided to force the employers hand again.
Matters came to a head last week on the 9th May when the workers decided to picket again outside work. “Mma Pilane then told us that she cannot make any decisions and that only the CEO could address our concerns fully; we were skeptical that the CEO could just arrive on the 12th and address all our concerns,” said a member of the workers party.
On the same day, Pilane is said to have connected the workers to the CEO, Kevin Pather, through a conference call. However, Pather was apparently displeased and rhetorically asked the workers, “who do you think you are?”.
Pilane declined to comment on the issues raised by the workers, when contacted by this publication.
On Thursday 10th, Botswana Police Services arrived at the premises of the company and cleared out the workers. “We went to seek help from our area Councilor, Kedisa, who then said all 200 of us must meet him at his home,” said a PASDEC worker, adding that the councilor advised them to engage their legal representatives, Paul and Partners, who helped secure a court order last year.
“We then met CASAWU (Cashiers, Shop Assistants and Allied Workers Union) in Mr Chingapane who advised us to return to work,” said a worker.
However, the workers were confronted with suspension letters upon their arrival, with security furnished with their individual names; the condition to return to work was to accept the suspension letters.
At the time of going to print, CASAWU was preparing an urgent legal application to challenge not only the suspension of close to 200 workers but also the company’s refusal to recognize CASAWU as a trade union that represents its workers’ interests.
Chingapane said that the company is already in contempt of court as they have failed to actualize the demands of a court order which elapsed on 31 August, 2017, which also stated that they must produce the company’s employment policy.
“Workers were suspended after they learnt that there is a Union; they had ample time to attend to the workers grievance,” said Chingapane.
“Just today, we received two dismissal letters, one of a worker on probation and one for a resigned worker who was serving notice; these workers have been threatened with dismissal and the realization is that the employer is clearly against the workers being unionized. We will continue to fight such as militantly as we can,” Chingapane enthused.
Established 47 years ago in Malaysia, PASDEC penned a P200 million partnership deal with Botswana Development Corporation in 2015, which saw the company relocate from South Africa where it supplied automotive wiring harness to the original equipment manufacturers of Nissan, Renault and Volkswagen vehicles.
The PASDEC deal, sealed after high level diplomacy involving trips to Malaysia by former Trade Minister, Vincent Seretse and the former Vice President, now state president Mokgweetsi Masisi, was widely seen as the BDC’s flagship project, after a period of turbulence at the state-owned development agency.