After a long battle, senior teachers at primary school level across the country smiled all the way to the bank to receive their salary increments, coupled with back pay dating as far back as July 2013.
The salary increase put them on an equal scale with equivalents at junior and senior schools, resolving a disparity that has been going on for three years since the implementation of the contentious Levels of Operation (LOO) policy. Primary school senior teachers have moved from C1 to the D4 salary scale. According to the scale, C1 is an income of around P14 000 and D4 between P16 000 to P17 000.
About 4 512 senior teachers across the country are now receiving an increment of around P3000, meaning it will cost the government approximately 486 million pula. There are 752 primary schools in Botswana and each one has around six senior school teachers. The court order to increase salaries of primary school senior teachers was made by Lobatse High Court Justice, Godfrey Ntlhomiwa in March.
In the matter, he ordered that the implementation of LOO be made retrospective to the month of July 2013, when LOO was first implemented in respect of secondary school teachers who hold positions of responsibility.
Benefits in order
Justice Ntlhomiwa also declared that primary school level, senior teachers were entitled to benefit from LOO without the precondition of a job evaluation assessment. “The government set aside its decision to require primary school level, senior teachers to undergo a job evaluation assessment as a precondition to them benefiting from the Levels of Operation.”
Subsequent to Justice Ntlhomiwa’s ruling, Botswana Sectors of Educators’ Trade Union (BOSETU) Secretary General, Tobokani Rari told the press in a collaborative presentation to other unions that “the ripple effects of the judgement” were that government would have to incur the costs “which ran into millions”.
According to Rari, the implications of the ruling was that senior teachers would be moved to D4, which meant that at this level they are now Heads of Departments (HODs).
“The HODs will then have to move from D4 to D3, and on D4 currently we have Deputy School Heads and this means they will have to move from D3 to D2. On D2 we also have School Heads, which means they would have to move from D2 to D1,” he said.
Rari explained: “These are things that are done by people we advise, and we have now duly advised them during the course of the negotiations. They did not take the advice. Now the judgement is out in our favour,” Rari stated.
Union pressure since 1994 led to the government relenting and committing to unravelling Levels of all Operations. “Then they said it means with teachers at Junior School, their post of responsibility will be pitched at the level of Senior School, which is D4. When the same was supposed to be done with teachers at Primary School it did not happen, instead their post of responsibility was said to start at C1,” Rari pointed out.
He said it was agreed that in terms of movement, teachers at Primary can move without being promoted until salary scale C1. “Remember C1 applies to a senior teacher with a responsibility.” He also observed that starting in 2014, senior teachers without responsibility at C2 had moved to C1, which meant they shared a scale with those with responsibility.
“The trade unions, during negotiations of LOO, tried to suggest that it would not work. As it is, it would instead create a management crisis if those without responsibility are made to share a scale with those with responsibility as, the former would be seen as junior, to the latter, which would be a big problem for management.”
In 2014 that crisis passed. “So our negotiations did not bear fruit. At some point job evaluation was proposed as a pre-requisite to move to D4.”
Botswana Teachers’ Union Secretary General, Agang Gabana felt that even in promotions the issue at hand was catastrophic at primary schools. He said: “Everyone was confused as to the basis on what teachers were being promoted, as some were already senior teachers, while there were those who were just on that scale.”
Gabana said it was not clear on what basis those presumed to be accelerating to C1 were promoted, and this led to commotion among the 10 education regions in the country.
Unions standing up for teachers
He further stated that this issue comes at a time when some quarters have already rendered unions useless. “So, this is a landmark case as it speaks paramount to further issues of bargaining and other topical issues such as being accused of inciting members to refuse the 3% public servants’ salary increment.”
Gabana maintained that the union has always said the collective bargaining council did not only exist for issues of salary adjustments. “It is a big victory that our members understand in a broader sense, the role that unions play in our country. This is a collective bargaining issue.”