Army nurses case set for Monday in F/town

• Have threatened to resign if they lose • BDF wants case dismissed with costs

Army nurses case set for Monday in F/town
(Pic: MONIRUL BHUIYAN/PRESS PHOTO)

The case in which army nurses are suing the government over collapsed salary structures that they had initially entered into with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) will be heard at the Francistown High Court next week, The Business Weekly & Review has established.

At a status hearing of the matter before Justice Lot Moroka of the Francistown High Court on the 16 November 2020, it was ordered that trial be set for 3, 4 and 5 May 2021 at 9.30am.

Represented by Tshekiso Ditiro & Jani Legal Practice, the group of 52 disgruntled army nurses stationed at various clinics around the country contend that government failed to honour its contractual obligations in accordance with dictates of the then adopted de-linking salary scale which has since been terminated.

Through the action, the nurses want the decision to terminate the de-linking of their salaries nullified. "The termination of the delinking be and is hereby declared null and void," reads a court document filed by the nurses. "It is and hereby declared that the plaintiffs are entitled to be paid the remuneration in terms of the de-linking exercise."

According to information reaching this publication, the army nurses are demanding to be remunerated the same as their civilian counterparts who perform the same duties at the same level as them.

"The termination amounts to unilateral variation of the plaintiffs’ terms of employment," reads nurses’ the affidavit filed before court. "The person(s) who terminated the de-linking had no power at law to terminate it."

Court records show that the de-linking exercise was initially introduced to see to it that there was progression for military nurses which was at first reserved only for civilian nurses. This publication has established that with the new structure, military nurses were to spend one year on Salary Scale C4/C3 as registered nurses and two years on C2 as senior registered nurses.

With the said de-linking structure, military nurses were to spend two years on C1 as principal registered nurses and two years as chief registered nurses on D4.

The Business Weekly & Review understands that with the de-linking structure in place, progression was to be automatic as opposed to being merit-based. “Since the introduction of delinking, civilian nurses progressed in terms of the automatic progression while the plaintiff’s’ progression was imminent and not consistent with that of civilian nurses," says the nurse’s affidavit.

The BDF nurses also bemoan that had the progression applied to them the same way as it did to civilians, progression would have been at the same level. "By introducing the de-linking, the employer created an expectation on the plaintiffs that they would be paid and progressed in line with their civilian counterparts," they state in their court papers.

Investigations by this newspaper show that the de-linking was terminated in 2019 and BDF nurses retained on a rank-based salary system. The de-linking of salaries was introduced in 2011 to detach salaries from ranks.

The BDF has opposed the suit. “The defendant denies that the termination of the de-linking amounted to unilateral variation of the plaintiffs' terms of employment,” the army says in its opposing affidavit. The BDF has denied that the plaintiffs were entitled to be paid in terms of the de-linking arrangement, hence it wants the action dismissed with costs. The army nurses have threatened to resign en masse if their demands not.