Aggrieved trade union federation, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) says workers are unhappy over how President Mokgweetsi Masisi snubbed their invitation to grace the Labour Day and such deeds will push unions to form a workers party in future.
In an interview, the federation president Johannes Tshukudu said they are disappointed by the decision taken by Masisi to attend the Khawa Dune Challenge while snubbing the workers. He said although unions are not in position form a workers alliance movement at the moment, possibilities in future are that unions will consider that if political parties continue fail workers.
According to Tshukudu, trade unions could not rush to form workers movement or a political party they are still looking over how both ruling and opposition parties deal with workers matters.
He said BOFEPUSU adopted the Workers Charter under which they are currently assessing all political parties to see if their 20244 general elections manifestos will be pro workers or not. “We have seen how the president has continued to disregard the labour movement when he decided to prioritize Khawa and didn’t attend our invitation to him to talk to the workers on Labour Day. He sent his message via internet. We will meet him and Khawa might cost him,” Tshukudu fired shots.
The outspoken Tshukudu went on to express displeasure over unfulfilled promised that Masisi has made to the labour movement such as revival of Public Service Bargaining Council but to no avail.
“There is very little commitment coming from government with regards to the bargaining structures. Also, we are struggling from the private sector perspective as we have asked that we form the private sector industrial councils but the employers are not coming on board. They snub us,” he added.
He also lamented the poor conditions of service extended to the workers by private employers.
Tshukudu said workers continue to report mistreatment by employees particularly by foreign owned businesses, adding that Commissioner of Labour is toothless hence need more powers.
Meanwhile, Masisi in his Labour Day message to the unions reiterated his government commitment to revive the public service bargaining council rekindling the promise he made to unions in 2018.
He applauded BOFEPUSU and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) for working together in advancing the interest of the workers, noting that their cooperation show maturity and commitment.
In addition, Masisi further urged the two trade union federations to assist the government by actively participating in the government RESET Agenda to participate in economic development of the country.
SA COSATU Model
Political analyst Kitso Morekisi said if local trade unions are to form a workers alliance in future should align to political parties adopt the model similar to that of Congress of Southern Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in neighboring South Africa.
He said the local labour movement has the potential to form a robust workers political movement.
“BOFEPUSU is big labour movement and together with the teacher trade unions have all the prowess to have workers alliance. But it will be important for unions to align to political party. In the context of Botswana, opposition parties are likely to benefit from unions formed party as there seems to be lack of trust between BDP led government and unions. Workers are powerful,” he said.
He also said the unions couldn’t necessarily form a workers movement but submit proposals to the political parties that will be able to guide which political party to support like happened before.
“In 2014, we have seen how the trade unions through their influence nearly removed BDP from power under former president Ian Khama when BOFEPUSU shown support to the UDC. In 2019, although BOFEPUSU didn’t publicly declare support to any political party, technical they backed up Masisi following the Ntlole salary adjustments made to some public service workers,” he said.
Chopping Labour Ministers
Meanwhile, BOFEPUSU president Tshukudu said the changing and chopping of labour ministers by Masisi in cabinet reshuffles cause inconsistency towards addressing issues affecting workers.
He said it become difficult for BOFEPUSU to engage with new ministers as some disregard unions.
“We believe that if labour ministers continue to be changed time in and again will result in a lot inconsistency when it comes to deal with burning issues that affect workers. We encourage that ministers of labour should not be chopped and changed. This is a critical ministry to us,” he noted.
Another development that he says dampen the spirit of progress in advancing workers welfare is the changing of directors and managers in government departments who are hired via contracts.
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