Members of Botswana Public employees Union (BoPeU) have voted for their union to cut ties with their mother body, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BoFePUSU) at the just-ended elective congress in Palapye.
This comes after the union suspended their monthly subscription to the federation two months ago due to a soured relationship between the two parties. 226 BoPeU members voted for the decision, while 36 voted against and 11 were neutral.
The leadership of the union also took part in the process including the former first deputy president of the union, Sikalame Seitiso who said he had support of the federation to topple his leader, Andrew motsamai.During the debate about the issue, members argued that there was no point for the union to continue the relationship with the federation as it does not serve any purpose.
“Our union was always side-lined during what went on at the federation so there was no need for us to continue working with people who did not want us. The problem with BoFePUSU leadership is that they want to have control over how their affiliate unions are run,” said one member adding that this was payback time for what the federation did to the union during last year’s election.
In February this year, BoPeU pulled out of BoFePUSU election citing the unavailability of a report of audited financial statements. Prior to the election both parties agreed that Seitiso would be president of the federation but backtracked at the last minute to settle for Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) president, Johannes Tshukudu.
BoPeU felt betrayed and boycotted the election.Some members in the congress argued that the federation is run by directives. “There is no dialogue in the federation and that is why our union was always sidelined because we believe in debate not a situation where one man calls the shots,” he said.
Others said the union should not join any federation because currently they have reached the requisite threshold to qualify for admission alone in the Bargaining council. Two months ago BoPeU wrote to the Secretary General of the federation, Tobonaki Rari about suspending their monthly subscription. This came after the federation wanted to increase subscription from P1.00 per member to P2.00 per month.
The disaffiliation of BoPe|U means that BoFePUSU will lose P336 000 on an annual basis as subscriptions from BoPeU. The latter pays a monthly subscription fee of P28 000 per month. currently BoPeU has 28 000 members and they consider themselves the biggest public sector union in the country. BoFePUSU leadership allegedly wanted to increase the fee to P2.00 per member arbitrarily but BoPeU insisted on consulting with members on the matter first.
In a letter written to Secretary General of BoFePUSU, Tobokani Rari dated 07 September, by BoPeU Secretary General Topias marenga; he said his union was concerned by “the simmering and unhealthy hostilities, which continue to build-up unabated between the mother-body (BoFePUSU) and BoPeU.”“The leadership noted that during the negotiations of the 2015/16, BoPeU’s submission even though duly received was never considered by the mother-body.
In so doing, denying BoPeU an opportunity to represent its constituents,” marenga wrote. He said that BoPeU leadership observed that there has been no attempt on the part of the current BoFePUSU executive to address BoPeU’s concerns raised at the February 2015 BoFePUSU congress relating to the unavailability of the audited books of account.
“The leadership noted further that, during the recent BURS industrial action, the mother-body deliberately and knowingly that they misrepresented facts, stated publicly that BoFePUSU had not been informed about the BURS strike. Again save for the BTU executive, none in the leadership of the Federation rose to the true trade union motto of an injury to one is an injury to all,” wrote marenga.