The Botswana Hotel Catering Travelling and Tourism Workers Union (BHCTTWU) is extremely concerned by the exclusion of the union in the fight against Covid 19 by Employers and related stakeholders in Tourism sector. Social dialogue is regrettably lacking. There has been exclusive and secret meetings held by the Ministries of Health and Wellness, Labour and Employment, Botswana Tourism Organisation, Hotel and Tourism Association of Botswana and Business Botswana at the exclusion of workers and the Union. This means that the voice of workers is sidelined in the Tourism sector in dealing with covid -19. We express our disdain to these secret meetings which have not assisted the tourism industry but posing a devastating negative impact on the country’s economy. It must be stated that this is a national crisis where all key stakeholders are very critical in fighting the WHO declared pandemic.
The union members are on the frontline to combat the Covid 19 virus as they provide services to hundreds on quarantine, and yet their safety and protection is not guaranteed. What is more disheartening is that some hotels, lodges and tour operators are now taking advantage of the situation to unprocedurally retrench the workers and even alter their employment conditions without following proper legal procedures and measures submitted by the Federation to Government with regard to economic measures of protecting workers.
The hotel and tourism industry is the second largest sector that contributes to the gross domestic product after the diamond led mining industry. The tourism and hospitality sector employs around 30 thousand employees who are now facing a bleak future in the hotels, restaurants, safari camps, lodges, transportation, tour operations and so on. Experts forecast that the tourism and hospitality sector is facing a 35-50 percent contraction in 2020due to the virus. The BHCTlWU Executive Committee held a meeting with the Acting Commissioner of Labour, Ms.
Goitseone Kokorwe to raise several issues on employee welfare in the industry. The union is concerned with job security of workers, health and wellness in relation to personal protective equipment (PPE), education and information on safety and health in relation to covid 19 virus, employee exposure to the virus and the quarantining of exposed employees to protect them and their families, and the possible intervention measures by the government. This meeting has not produced any results as the office of Commissioner is powerless to drive towards a solution to the predicament at hand.
Furthermore with these grave concerns BHCTlWU, through its mother body BOFEPUSU has requested for an urgent meeting with Tourism sector stakeholders and Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Skills Development for purpose putting in place measures of protecting employees in the tourism sector during this catastrophe. BHCTlWU will continue to monitor the situation and if the welfare of workers is not improved, we will mobilise our members and through BOFEPUSU to withdraw their labour to protect them from this pandemic and abuse by the employers. We remain dedicated to making a great contribution towards combating covid -19 in our Country. While so we are calling on employers to ensure the safety and protection of employees and their job security. Members should also not hesitate to contact the union. Thank you Cde Phologolo Ntswetse SIGNED; BHCTlWU President