- Launch workers charter to prepare for 2024 elections
- Unions also target ‘arrogant’ Permanent Secretaries
- BDP Govt keen to embrace trade unions – Kentse
Disappointed Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has cautioned President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government for their anti-workers tactics, such as violation of collective bargaining agreements.
Federation president, Johannes Tshukudu on Friday came with guns blazing taking a swipe at the BDP Spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse who attended BOFEPUSU Workers Charter official launch. Tshukudu decried that the ruling BDP government proved to be an enemy of workers under the tenure of former president Ian Khama, and now his successor is proving to be the same.
Tshukudu said failure by Masisi to deliver promises he made to the labour movement such as the resuscitation of Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) shows lack of political will from him. So, BOFEPUSU has vowed to punish Masisi together with his party, particularly for exposing workers to the immense risks under the State of Public Emergency (SoPE), during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We firmly oppose the current state of emergency and even asked the President and BDP to justify to the nation why it is necessary and they failed. We are wondering if Masisi will during this five years rule through the SoPE. We will meet at the 2024 elections,” he warned, classifying Masisi and Khama as birds of the same feather when it comes to frustrating trade unions.
“It is the same BDP government that Masisi is in charge of that derecognized the trade unions while comrade Khama was president with Masisi as his vice at a time. BOFEPUSU reported the government to International Labour Organization (ILO) for violation of workers’ rights and we emerged victorious against government,” said Tshukudu warning other parties to be careful.
He also said that BOFEPUSU will use the workers charter to assess how all political parties are responding to issues that affect the workers, noting that hit list of anti-workers MPs is coming.
Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) vice president for primary, Bakang Bagwasi also expressed a discontent over how government is mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic especially in schools.
He noted that teachers have been succumbing to Covid-19 in large numbers but some of the Permanent Secretaries in stakeholder ministries have been arrogant hence need to be dealt with.
“Some Permanent Secretaries have turned out to be obstacle to smooth bargaining and social dialogue. Mr. Kentse we advise you to tell your BDP government to deal with such PSs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) president Obonolo Rahube also said workers have been vulnerable abused amidst Covid-19 citing suspension of over time for health workers. He cautioned government against not renewing contracts of Covid-19 temporary nurses noting that this will have a negative impact on the vaccination rollout as nurses are being overwhelmed.
Responding to the onslaught from trade unions leaders, BDP mouthpiece Kentse said the party and president Masisi are committed to upholding workers’ rights by working with unions. “We have heard all the concerns raised in relation to the government. The BDP has in its 2019 elections manifesto shown commitment to improving conditions of service for workers. I can also assure you that we are doing our best amid Covid-19 to protect workers,” said worried Kentse.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary for Labour, Justin Hunyepa said the party is committed to address issues affecting all the workers unlike its counterpart in the ruling BDP. Hunyepa said that it was suicidal for BOFEPUSU to have taken a neutral approach during the 2019 elections by not publicly declaring support for party that had interest of workers at heart.
“That was a bad approach and it is now backfiring as we see the workers being abused with the government hiding behind SoPE and Covid-19. There is no workers ideology that is neutral. As, UDC we proposed for living wage which it is today contained in your charter as well,” he added.
Tshukudu says that through the workers charter, BOFEPUSU is not going be blowing cold and hot in all political matters especially in the eve of the much important 2024 elections post Covid-19.
“We shall not be running after any political formation but such formations must be the ones that would have to come crawling to the federation seeking for political support, partnership or whatever. This says between now and October 2024 all political parties that shall be contesting for national general elections have to know what workers vote not come cheap shall like it was in 2019,” he added.
BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile said that workers charter is a Blue Print that forms core instrument that the federation will use to strike relationships with political parties.
He noted that the charter focuses on critical aspects such as the position on recognition and national Bargaining Public Service and Private, saying that their absence disturbs the unions.
“Social dialogue is a very important aspect in tripartite bargaining. The workers charter is a weapon that BOFEPUSU and the general labour movement will use to advance welfare and interests of workers. All stakeholders must come to party and embrace the charter,” he said.