- Says govt has resorted to spreading rumours to create rift between workers
- Cadres deployed nationwide to update members
- Plans to rally workers to vote against govt in 2019
Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) Secretary General Tobokani Rari says they will deploy their leadership nationwide this week to update members on the state of labour relations, government’s efforts to get rid of trade unions and destroy the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).
To show that it would do anything to destroy trade unions, Rari said government was now spreading rumours among workers to create a rift between them, with some promised 3% salary increments if they abandoned unions.
“We are experiencing a situation in which more than ever before, the current regime is clamping down on trade unions by denying them their rights and taking away those that were given by the previous regimes,” he said.
Rari explained that the 3% increment at the exclusion for some workers was meant to make it look like unions were denying them their increments: “Some people do not understand that these are carefully orchestrated plans of government to try to destroy the unions by making the workers to be up in arms against their trade unions and government is doing that deliberately.”
To curb this, he said they decided, following their December 2016 congress, to close the information gap by sending union leadership to explain that what they were doing was actually meant to protect the integrity of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).
“The PSBC can die when the government starts to make decisions while negotiations are still on and that will mean that the bargaining council is just an entity there that does not bite because it will always be preempted by the actions of government while it is in the negotiation process, so we are fighting to protect this principle,” said Rari.
He also said the nationwide meetings will sensitive people about the 2019 vote as it looks like government was intent on fighting unions and workers. “What else can you do when you have a government that behaves that way. The only thing to do is to go out and vote in numbers to remove those that are against the welfare of the workers,” he said.
Another goal, he added, will be to show workers how the current regime regressed gains made by the previous regime when it comes to ratifying ILO conventions and domesticating them. He cited the amendment of the Public Service Act which allows bargaining as an example. “Now they are taking an important tool that when you sit at a table and bargain you use in order to pressurize the employer, which is the right to strike. This has now been taken away by amending the trade dispute Act.”
He also said government was trying to topple unions as it had also decided to temper with the deduction codes for trade unions.
“Deductions for subscriptions is the blood life of any trade union to exist, therefore you cannot say you have ratified the convention which gives the freedom to associate as trade unions and at the same time kill trade unions by not allowing them to deduct money which runs them. So, in our view, that is regression of the worst order,” he said.