Rural Metro Botswana, a fire service company owned by former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Botsalo Ntuane, is being accused of unfair labour practices.
A leaked letter seen by The Midweek Sun and addressed to Kweneng District Council suggests that Rural Metro employees want to be paid 30 percent essential service allowance.
They also complain of being underpaid, having no medical aid benefits even though the nature of their job exposes them to danger. The employees are also demanding to be paid housing allowance, a benefit enjoyed by essential workers in Botswana. The workers are also worried that they cannot get personal loans from banks because the employer cannot negotiate with banks on their behalf.
According to the disgruntled employees who spoke to this publication this week, they even share face masks that are used when attending to fire incidents.
“We have only four masks but there are many of us, nothing is really going well here, we are very unhappy but fear being fired,” they said.
Ntuane could not be drawn into commenting on the matter, but referred The Midweek Sun to the company's General Manager, Meshack Tamocha.
“I am just a shareholder, I do not work there,” Ntuane explained.
Tamocha expressed shock at the allegations.
“I am aware of that letter and I thought issues raised there were attended to. I am failing to understand why our employees would choose to complain to the media instead of coming to us directly,” Tamocha said.
Tamocha who is convinced that some people are out to deliberately damage the company name said they have and in the presence of Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLHWU) explained their position on the employees’ grievances.
“We cannot afford to pay for medical Aid, the company does not have the financial muscle to do that. We do not pay them the 30 per cent allowance but pay for overtime as and when an employee has worked extra hours,” he said.
He added that they also have an insurance policy to cover unfortunate incidents when employees are injured.
The company has never failed to pay salaries for the past seven years and it is shocking that employees are only complaining of low wages now, he said.
Regarding face masks that are shared, Tamocha said the masks are expensive to buy and not all employees can have one for themselves. All they do is sanitise them and ensure they are clean enough to be shared.
“We do all we can to ensure that we appreciate them, by even providing year-end bonuses. We also have salary increases. I really do not understand what this is all about, maybe a political witch-hunt of some sort,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rural Metro workers say they are greatly disappointed with Kweneng District Council. They sought for intervention of the Council, as they (Council) sub contracted Rural Metro to offer fire emergency services in Kweneng.
“Yes I have received that letter but was unable to attend to the matter because I did not know who was complaining,” Kweneng Council boss Motlhophi Leo said.
Leo said it was hard for him to attend to grievances written in the letter because he did not know who to contact. He added that at one point, about three or four people came to his office to complain but begged him to hide their identities.
“It made my job very difficult. Council has no issues meddling in how Rural Metro carries out its business, we have a contract with Rural Metro, not their employees,” he said.
A cagey Leo said he was not in a position to reveal how much the Rural Metro fire service tender is, as well as the terms and conditions of their contract.
However, according to a council address made by Leo in 2020, the relationship between Kweneng Council and Rural Metro dates far back.
The current contract that the two have dates back to 2020 and will end in 2025.
BLLHWAU Regional Organiser Region 3, Rolent Gambule said he had met with both complainants and the employer to settle the differences.
“I am surprised there are some who are still not happy, they have been writing us and we have always intervened and given them feedback,” he said.