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Gov’t studies Minimum Wage proposals

Publishing Date : 10 June, 2019

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

The Minimum Wage Advisory Board, following a bout of exchanging notes and ideas in 2018, has submitted its recommendation to Minister of Employment, Labour, Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabelo for possible implementation after cabinet approval.


However, Mabeo has indicated that it is not guaranteed that the recommendations will be adopted as they are. “The board has just submitted recommendations to my ministry for forwarding to cabinet in near future. The board [made up of unions, workers, government, employers and independent members] sits and deliberates and come up with recommendations for approval by the executive,” said Mabeo, confirming receipt of the proposals from the board with this publication.


The board was expected to present its recommendations in March 2019. The last revision to minimum wages was done in 2017 and there has been mounting calls for it to be reviewed especially from political parties as the rates are said to be low. Data from Statistics Botswana, contained in the Formal Sector Employment Statistics 2018, shows that minimum hourly rate increased 52 percent between 2009 and 2017. The current minimum hourly wage rates range from P3.21 to P5.79 per hour.


The debate on increasing the minimum wage has been the focus on the country’s increasing income inequality. Botswana is in the top three most unequal countries in terms of income distribution as measured by the Gini Index. Proponents of the minimum wage have urged the government to protect its citizens from exploitation by increasing the minimum wage, and have contended that it will reduce inequality. Businesses operating in Botswana have defended the wages they pay their employees, arguing that what they pay is in line with the country’s minimum wage laws.


The minister reiterated that the recommendations will not be fully implemented as they are. “We should look at how employees are paid compared to the [performance of] economy. We want to create a balance so that the business community would be able to absorb many people without retrenchments. We do not want a company to be making a lot of money but not compensating workers as it could be. In short what we are saying is, ‘do not pay less than this amount. But if one [employer] wants to go overboard then they will be allowed to,’” he explained.


The industries in question include Building, Construction, Exploration and Quarry, Wholesale Distributive Trade, Manufacturing, Service and Repair Trades, Hotel, Catering and Entertainment Trades, Garage and Motor Trade and Road Transport. Currently their hourly rates range from P3.21 to P5.79.


The board according to informants suggested increase of at least 20 percent on the mentioned sectors and further said; “If the working week is 5 days, then the working day may not be more than 9 hours and a period of rest totalling 1-hour should be provided during the day. If the working week is more than 5 days, then the working day may not be more than 8 hours or more than 48 hours in a week. A break of at least 30 minutes must be given after 5 consecutive hours of work”.


Mabeo highlighted that among other factors the board looked at was inflation rate and revealed that spanners are at work to go to national living wage which gravitates to a set living wage. This is one of the recommendations in the classified recommendation paper.
A living wage, unions have said, it is not enough to improve one's quality of life or protect against emergencies.


“For example, workers will not earn enough to eat at restaurants, save for a rainy day, or pay for education loans. It doesn't include medical, auto, or renters/homeowners insurance. In other words, it's enough to keep you out of a homeless shelter, but you'd still have to live pay check-to-pay check. If you can't afford insurance, and you get sick, you could still wind up homeless,” they observed.

MABEO, UNIONS OFF TO ILO CONFERENCE

Botswana delegation led by Minister Mabeo left for Geneva, Switzerland this week to attend this year conference and centenary celebrations. “We had a meeting this week to prepare for the conference and I must say we agree on a number of things and the meeting was a success,” Mabeo told this publication. Among a number of strides they made, the tripartite committee has established a labour law review committee and this will see Botswana for the first time in years not accounting in any of the sub-committees.


In the last conference BOFEPUSU had reported the government at the ILO for what they regarded as “trampling and disregarding the lawfully instituted Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC)” and also queried the controversial amendment of the Trade Dispute Act.  ILO representative, under the Freedom of Association branch, Keren Curtis also visited Botswana to meet the tripartite structure to follow up on the BOFEPUSO letter reporting key violations of workers’ rights in the country.


“We are not going to appear to any committee because we have rectified our past issues. We formed a labour law review committee to look to avoid litigations on either public services act. We have also made great progress. So far we have met at least 90 percent of what we were supposed to,” Mabeo said.


This year’s meeting will see ILO celebrating its centenary and looking at the future of the work to avoid retrenchments in the work place that is engulfed by mechanization as well as fusing technology in the work place. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has been tasked to present the subject titled “future of work.

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