Workers federations demand PSBC revival
Trade unions accuse BDP of snubbing them
‘We cannot snub trade unions’ – Balopi
Knives are out for President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his cabinet ministers, with trade union federations accusing them of taking workers plight for granted.
The trade unions’ discontentment towards Masisi comes in the backdrop of delays by the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to rescustate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) as promised.
Soon after ascending the presidency, Masisi had promised to facilitate the resuscitation of the PSBC by September 2018. The occassion was Labour Day celebrations in the City of Francistown in May 2018. Three years later the PSBC remains dissolved with DPSM dilly-dallying, making one excuse after another when called to fulfill Masisi’s promises.
Trade unions are running out of patience. On Thursday, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Unions (BOFEPUSU) Secretary General, Tobokani Rari blamed DPSM for lack of commitment to resuscitate PSBC, thus making Masisi’s promise hollow. Rari said DPSM is refusing to start negotiations on PSBC claiming that trade unions are not recognized by government because they had been granted such recognition under the repealed Public Service Act. When DPSM insisted, Rari said, trade unions challenged the decision by government to de-recognise them at the Francistown High Court and won.
“We call on President Masisi to come out of hiding and intervene as he promised us that he will resuscitate PSBC in 2018. He must address the high level of disrespect by DPSM to trade unions. The High court confirmed that recognition of unions was done lawfully. The DPSM rots from the head,” he fumed, accusing DPSM Director Goitseone Mosalakatane of questioning obvious truth that is undisputable and disrespecting trade unions. He said a task and reference team assembled to drive the resuscitation of the PSBC was about to conclude the rules of engagement when DPSM pulled the brakes.
Last year, Mosalakatane told the Parliamentary Committee on Public Service and its Management that government is committed to reviving PSBC, claiming that delays are caused by trade unions. Mosalakatane said some trade unions are not recognized as their membership does not meet the required one third threshold yet they still want to be included in the PSBC. This week, she was not available for comment on allegations levelled against her as she did not answer calls to her mobile phone.
Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) Secretary General Thusang Butale said the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka failed to engage them on budget as it has been the norm with former ministers. So, Butale said the government of Botswana violated the International Labour Organisation’s (144) convection which is premised on tripartite consultation.
Also, BFTU and BOFEPUSU are unhappy that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary caucus snubbed their calls. The federations’ leadership said they wrote to both the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the BDP parliamentary caucus asking for meetings to discuss workers’ issues but only the former responded.
In an interview on Thursday, the BDP Secretary General, Mpho Balopi confirmed that the party received a letter from BFTU and BOFEPUSU saying they will respond in due course. Balopi said BDP parliamentary caucus is not snubbing the unions because as the ruling party it is committed to engage them on issues affecting the welfare of workers and the budget at large.
“We are dealing with the committee of supply at the moment based on the budget. We have a response for the unions and by Tuesday we will have submitted it to them. The party will also delegate representatives from our MPs to meet with the unions. We respect trade unions.” he said, adding that three cabinet ministries of Finance, Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration and his Ministry of Employment have a duty to deal with trade unions’ grievances.