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Botswana Trade Union Federations need to smoke peace pipe?

Publishing Date : 22 August, 2017

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The furore that prevailed during the 2017 International Labour Conference, between two of Botswana Labour Federations, Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatals and Public Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) should be wished –away to the trenches. The two Federations, as a matter of urgency must see to it that they bury the hatchet and initiate processes of working together, for the sake of ailing labour and the distressed policies looming to engulf the working class.

Fairly scrutinising the difference, one may safely lament that trade union difference centres on power, egoistic and inopportunely capitalises on the trade union masses ignorance of the willingness to detect the truth from ILO reporting procedures. Like sacred figures we have turned our trade union leaders into monsters that have pricked our iris translucent to soberly use our conscience effectually.

Leadership of the two edifice need to outgrow their differences, overcome their egos and learn to unlearn some perceptions they harbour against one another. Policies crafted by the government to turn labour into dummies need collective voices and efforts to circumvent their ill-fated motives.  Disastrous behavioural patterns that have come to characterise the two federations are ironically for assemblies that purport to represent a struggling majority, is disgraceful, to say the least.

Regrettably, the acrimony existing between the two Federations has rubbed off into activists of the two groups, such that they have resorted to malice, propaganda, mudslinging, bad-mouthing and poignantly defying international trade union core value, “solidarity.” Disappointedly, the animosity has extended to political circles. Labour is a force equal to other social groupings such as political parties, our oneness as a proletarian should be used without an apology to attain our demands. Altered articles in the Public Service Bill and Trade Dispute Act far out-weigh our differences as a trade union movement in Botswana.

We need to learn from one another, use our bountiful resources to pressurise legislators change their move of suppressing workers via ulterior policies meant to make trade unions irrelevant. We should look beyond our differences, as there are vast opportunities in trade unionism. Attendance of ILO Conferences alone should not cloud our willingness to liberate workers from shackles of oppression. We should first start by working on our differences before we toil on strategies which could make our voices more laudable to the outside world.

Otherwise our cases we submit before the ILO will be compromised by our differences and turn ourselves into a laughing stock to the outside world. We cannot even capitalise on available opportunities afforded to trade union activists and employees by outside trade union camaraderie because of our dilapidating differences. The sooner we work together the better, otherwise the current crop of trade union leadership will only be remembered for their self-centeredness. A true trade union leader is measured by the ability to blend those in the doldrums stand firm against that in authority and not by fighting fellow comrades in the course of struggle.

Trade union followers too should move away from docility, the rank and file should demand answers from the leadership. Members’ submissiveness makes the leadership take decisions which are detrimental to the masses aspirations. Not only is that, even the zeal to unearth information where their lives matter most, is wanting. Majority of trade union zealots, amazingly even those in the leadership are unfortunately clueless on ILO reporting procedures.

Looking at the two groups of workers representation that made a grade at the ILO Conference, one may borrow a leaf from the other group. The other group had all the apex of the leadership, while the other had a mixture of the leadership and experts in various professions. The latter could be ideal in giving advisers and liaising with pertinent stakeholders to substantiate their arguments. Nevertheless, it is important to master the art of ILO reporting procedure or raising complaints against violated workers’ rights. It is basically the foundation for trade union to increase their leverage against untidy government tactics.  Trade unions should not take advantage of member’s docility and master ILO reporting format.

The eight fundamental Conventions, the four principle Conventions, other critical conventions, together with ILO recommendations need to be mastered by the leadership and know that before the beginning of every September comments about the status of conventions should have been sent to the Committee of Experts (CoE).Therefore it is imperative for trade unions to master the procedure in order for their comments to reach the Committee of Experts (coE) well on time. As a rule, trade unions precisely Secretary Generals must know that the deadline for submitting comments to the CoE is first of September. Secretary Generals failing to submit comments before the stipulated time are tantamount to sabotaging the struggle.

The CoE, an independent body comprising of 20 professionals, with extensive experience in their respective field, produce annual report every March detailing how various countries relate with workers in relation to International Labour Standards. The recommendations are consequently sent to governments for rectifying whatever measures may deem necessary for good industrial relations.

Collaboration of the two Botswana’s Federations could breed a strong representation capable of advocating for workers’ rights, particularly protecting them against rogue policies that characterise statutes governing workers. The gravity of altered articles in Trade Dispute Act, Trade Union and Employers Organisation Act and Public Service Bill are evident enough to knock sense into those at the helm of Botswana trade union leadership. The hype about governments being reported to the ILO must not supersede trade union collectivism.

Healthy relationship of the two federations will ultimately facilitate effective organisation on how CoE conclusions and recommendations are followed to the latter. Subsequent to that, the tripartite engagement with the government and employer’s partnership, ILO technical support will be handy in bettering workers conditions. The ultimately intention is to have a productive workforce capable to stimulate the economy of the country. Trade unions must be critical contributors to the macroeconomics of the land, and must not be seen as a stumbling block to its growth.

Our oneness as workers Federations will truly receive massive support from the Global Unions such as Education International (EI), the Nordic brothers who have magnificent tripartite system, workers confederations such as Southern African Trade Union Confederation (SATUCC), Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Fredrisch Ebert Foundation (FES), to mention a few. The 2017 ILO Conference is evident enough on the overwhelming support we received from global comrades. World over, the beauty of trade unions relies on their solidarity to work together.

Lastly, trade union members are free to follow NORMLEX information on the ILO webpage; it is an innovative information system which has detailed country reports on International Labour Standards (ILS) comments from the Supervisory bodies of the ILO. The information gives members a clear picture of various countries status of conventions and its relationship with workers organisations. It would also assist membership know the truth in relation to ILO reporting.

Comrade Mpho Maruping writes from Kudumatse
 Author’s submission supplemented with Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) excerpts from Global Labour University (GLU) in conjunction with ILO. The author is GLU alumni and local MOOC ILO tutor.



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