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Home » News » Politics » Khama, Botswana to headline ILO conference

Khama, Botswana to headline ILO conference

Publishing Date : 24 October, 2017

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

An international body, Public Services International (PSI) is coming after government following recent developments with labour unions which they have termed as anti-workers rights prevailing in the country.

 

PSI is a global union federation of 669 public services trade union representing 20 million workers in 154 countries. It represents workers in social services, health care, municipal services, central government and public utilities.

 

In Botswana, recently, the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) collapsed owing to persistent unilateral salary increments by government while negotiations were ensuing at the Council. This led to trade union party, Botswana Federation of Private, Public and Parastatal Workers Union, (BOFEPUSU) out of frustration, pulling out from the talks hence collapsing the Council.

 

Further, government is at an advanced stage of ensuring that the Public Service Bill becomes law, yet another step considered an endeavour by Khama’s government to trample on the workers’ rights. The bill essentially dis-empowers the PSBC and gives more power to the government through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and Permanent Secretary to the President. The PSP has been given authority to undertake disciplinary actions.

 

Moreover, the government has, despite strong resistance by local trade unions, passed a controversial law at parliament, Trade Dispute Act, which essentially categorized the teaching services, state broadcasting services, veterinary services in the public service, diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, operational and maintenance services of the railways among others - as essential services.

 

Unions believe their categorization was a calculated move to deprive them of their own weapon against powerful employers – which is their right to strike. WeekendPost is in possession of a letter directed to head of Botswana government President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama in which they highlight to him that the state of affairs concerning the workers’ rights in the country are upsetting to say the least. 

 

They therefore highlighted to him that Botswana and it’s trampling of workers’ rights issues will set the agenda at the International Labour Conference (ILC) next month in Geneva, Switzerland where hundreds of countries will partake.  

 

They state that: “PSI strongly believes that these developments are not only a cause for concern, but also an issue for action by the 106th International Labour Conference (ILC) in June 2017.” The General Secretary of PSI Rosa Pavanelli told Khama in the communiqué that PSI fully supports the complaint lodged about Botswana government to the impending 106th ILC sitting in June 2017, Geneva.

 

Pavanelli said the public service unions affiliating to PSI in Botswana, shall always confront any of the mentioned or identified challenges that infringe on the rights of their members, in any way whatsoever.

 

“In light of the various developments taking place in Botswana, particularly in reference to the public services, PSI has seen it fit to send a statement/open letter to the President of the country, His Excellency, Sir Seretse Khama on the issues,” she pointed out.

 

She continued to explain that the issues under dispute that put Botswana on the spotlight include the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act of 2016, the proposals for the amendments of the Public Service Act of 2008 and other developments taking place in the public services.

 

Pavanelli told Khama that she has been keenly following the developments taking place in the public services in Botswana over the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act (TDA) of 2016, the proposed amendments to the Public Services Bill of Botswana, and the culminating events informed by the posture of the Government of Botswana over the collective bargaining processes in the recent months.

 

She complained that “the proposed Public Service Bill amendments, which seek to amend the Public Service Act of 2008, have, amongst other things, provided for the unilateral appointment of the Secretary of the Public Service Bargaining Council by the President, and not by all the parties in the council; only limited to the employees of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM).”

 

In the letter, she is gravely concerned that the PSBC is not involved in dispute resolution, “particularly since it is not clear what, in the absence of dispute resolution, will the function of the PSBC be, in line with the proposals of the bill”. Moreover, Pavanelli stated that the proposals to the bill provide for the conference of benefits on employees whilst negotiations are ongoing, something which seriously undermines and mocks the bargaining process in its entirety.

 

“These and other such proposals to the amendments to the bill remain problematic in the spirit of building industrial harmony and tranquillity. Furthermore, in all these proposed amendments, there is an apparent lack of commitment to provide rationality for these proposals, and to bring unions closer to such deliberations.”

 

Adding salt to injury, she explained that the recent court incidents over the PSBC and the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act of 2008 all show an apparently glaring shortage of commitment and sincerity from the Government of the Republic of Botswana to amicably resolve the outstanding matters of workers’ rights infringement in the public services.

 

According to the PSI General Secretary, this was raised following their prior correspondence, but no action has been taken. Instead, she said, they seem to witness an unabated, uninterrupted and consistent continuation of the process towards promulgating this bill into law soon, despite all the concerns raised.

 

Pavanelli noted that following the correspondence from the PSI Office on the 30th August 2016, directed to Khama’s office, there has been no change at all in relation to the commitment of the Government of Botswana to considering the concerns of public sector trade unions in the country over the enactment of the act.

 

“We also have a strong belief that since Botswana has ratified a majority of the core conventions, including Convention No.87 on the right to collective bargaining, and that Botswana is part of the ILO Governing Body, the Government of Botswana should ensure that it consistently upholds the rights enshrined in these conventions. We continue to reiterate this fact,” she stated.

 

“In that regard, Honourable President, PSI kindly brings the following to your attention: that we again call upon your government to open up for consultative, genuine and conclusive deliberations on both the TDA (2016) and the Public Service Bill Amendments in order to reinstate the confidence that has been eroded on the good faith by the Government of Botswana on all parties to the tripartite structure,” further reads the letter from Pavanelli. 

 

She added: “we shall consistently liaise with your office to ensure that legislative amendments are a process involving all tripartite structures in social dialogue format, so as to avoid unnecessary industrial tensions and unrest.” The PSI official also requested Khama’s government to desist from creating wedges between union and non-union members, as it would likely back fire in future.

 

Meanwhile BOFEPUSU had vowed to expose Botswana in the global stage, particularly at ILC, for infringement of workers’ rights which is likely to tarnish Botswana’s reputation as “a shining example of democracy” abroad.

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