Even though the two federations are still fighting about who reported the country to International Labour Organisation (ILO), Botswana has made it to the top 24 which violate ILO Conventions. Botswana Federation of Public, Private Sector Unions (BOFEPPUSU) and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) are currently attending the ongoing ILO meeting in Geneva, Switzerland but they are bickering over who reported the matter to ILO.
Last month, Botswana made it to the last 40 countries earmarked to appear before the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) during the ongoing 106 session of ILO. The listing of Botswana comes after it violated Convention 87 of the ILO by enacting the controversial Trade Dispute Act that banned the right to strike to a large portion of workers among them diamond sorting and cutting, teachers, immigration and customs services.
Minister of Labour, Tshenolo Mabeo is expected to appear before the committee next week when Botswana’s case will be called for hearing. The report has raised several issues such as right to organise for prison service, which the government currently prohibits because they are part of the disciplined forces.
“The Committee observes that while the prison service does form part of the disciplined force of Botswana together with the armed forces and the police (Article 19 (1) of the Constitution), each of these categories is governed by separate legislation, the Prison Act, the Police Act and the Botswana Defence Force Act and the Prison Act as a separate statute does not appear to provide members of the prison service with the status of the armed forces or the police,” states the report verbatim The Committee also requests that government should take the necessary measures, including the pertinent legislative amendments to grant members of the prison service all rights guaranteed by the Convention.
On the controversial issue of some cadres being declared essential service by Bill No. 21 of 2015 of the new Trade Disputes Bill, the government has been requested to take necessary measures to amend the draft Trade Disputes Act to reduce the list of essential services. Malaysia appears first in the list while Botswana appears at number 20.
There are eight African countries on the list. In their report BOFEPUSU had written to ILO that the Bill will make it more difficult to engage in collective bargaining and exercising their right to strike. The Bill was last discussed in Parliament on July 4th 2016. The response to the Bill was mixed, with the opposition Members of Parliament and some ruling party MPs opposing it. For his part, leader of Opposition Duma Boko slammed the Bill on the basis that it takes away the right to strike.
Other MPs considered that teaching, services, Diamond and Cutting services were not essential. The Committee had also previously requested the government to provide information on the progress made in relation to the amendment of section 48B (1) of the Trade Union and Employers Organisation Act (TUEOA).
It grants certain facilities only to unions representing at least one third of the employees in the enterprise and Section 43 of the TUEO Act that provides for inspection of accounts, books and documents of a trade union by Registrar at any reasonable time. The Committee notes the government’s statement that the amendments process of the TUEO Act is ongoing and that the social partners have submitted their proposals for amendments,” reads the report.
It added, “The Committee trusts that, in the framework of the ongoing amendment process of the TUEO Act and in consultation with the social partners, the abovementioned provisions will be amended taking fully into account the Committee’s comments. The Committee requests the Government to provide information on any developments in this regard and to provide the text of the amended TUEO Act once adopted.”
The Committee has also requested Botswana to provide updated information on the steps taken to amend the Employment Act of 1982, including measures taken to ensure that section 23 (d) of the Employment Act expressly prohibits discrimination based on “political opinion” and “national extraction” and covers all aspects of employment and occupation, including recruitment and terms and conditions of employment (and not only termination).
“The Committee repeats its request to the Government to provide information on the application in practice of section 23 (e) of the Employment Act, including any interpretation by the administrative or judicial authorities,” states the report. BFTU filed a report with Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in September 2016.
“Our report was considered by the CEACR in November 2016 and is captured by the 2016 CEACR Report,” said Secretary General Gadzani Mhotsha. In March 2017 BFTU was among the African Trade Unions who gathered in Grand Bassam, Cote d’Voire to discuss the short-listing of African countries to appear before the CAS during the 2017 ILC.
“We successfully managed to have Botswana listed among the top countries in Africa. It is this ranking that has influenced the social partners in the ILO supervisory system to agree to have Botswana listed among the top 40 rogue states.
The list of 40 is a preliminary list which will have to be trimmed down to 25 by the CAS,” he said adding that only the last 25 countries will have to appear before the CAS. “BFTU believes it has a very strong case against the Botswana Government and we are positive that Botswana will make the last 25,” said Mohotsha.
Convention 87 which Botswana has contravened is on the fundamental rights of workers on the freedom to associate and the right to organise. This includes their right to organise their administration and activities.
The new TDA has banned workers from taking part in strike action in furtherance of their collective bargaining efforts, thus taking away their fundamental right. “We are grateful to those who have worked with us and continue to do so especially our colleagues from Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the support we have been getting from international organisations such as Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the ILO’s Decent Work Team and other sister federations in the region,” said Mhotsha.