Death knell to Trade Unions

Nicholas Mokwena
Friday, 17 November 2017
Death knell to Trade Unions

Farewell to Botswana’s working class as public sector trade unions are basically on death’s door. Government has written to Commissioner of Labour to cancel the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) BG News can reveal.

The decision was taken after council halted its operations when Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) withdrew from the council under its BOFEPUSU Acting Jointly Agreement in May this year. 

The federation announced during its Special Congress held on May 6th 2017 that the BOFEPUSU AJA had terminated its membership at the PSBC. Early last month Botswana Guardian reported that Government is working behind the scenes to de-register the council something, which the PSBC Secretariat claimed ignorance about.

Botswana Guardian is in possession of a letter in which Acting Commissioner of Labour Goitseone Kokorwe has written to trade unions notifying them of this development. 

The letter dated November 1st 2017, Kokorwe indicates that the commissioner’s office is in receipt of an application for cancellation of PSBC from the Employer Representative- Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM). 

The acting commissioner stated that in the application the DPSM has indicated that the PSBC is not functioning due to the PSBC Resolution that terminated the membership of Trade Union Party on the 23rd of May 2017.  DPSM has also indicated that the council is not functioning due to the Constitution because after the passing of the PSBC Resolution the Constitution of PSBC makes it impossible for the admission of a Trade Union Party.  Kokorwe stated that according to DPSM as a consequence of the aforementioned “the council does not meet the mandatory statutory requirement provided for under Section 52 of the Public Service Act of 2008; the council does not meet the mandatory requirement of Article 5.1 of its Constitution and the council is unable to deal with any application for admission to the council as set out under Article 6 of the PSBC Constitution” said Kokorwe. Therefore, given these circumstances Kokorwe explained that the commissioner’s office solicits views of the union who were part of the PSBC under the BOFEPUSU AJA on the matter. The unions have been urged to respond by end of this week. BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari confirmed to this publication that they have received the communication from the Commissioner of Labour. He however said the commissioner is being disingenuous for asking the Trade Union Party to make representation before her office without having attached or furnished them with the letter from DPSM to appreciate its content. “We want to know what informed such decision in detail. What we have in the letter that we received is just a paraphrased letter of what the DPSM argument is about. We would have appreciated to know how they interpreted the clauses they mentioned.  “The letter does not give us all the information that we need for making presentation before the commissioner’s office,” said Rari adding that they would request that they be furnished with proper documentation or correspondence from DPSM to best inform themselves before appearing at commissioner’s office. 

The secretary general revealed that they are against the cancellation of the council and the reasons advanced. Rari explained that there is a case before Court of Appeal regarding the scope of work for PSBC, which during arguments before judges the functionality of the council was raised.  According to Rari the ruling might have a bearing on the functionality of the council and for DPSM to raise this point in their request for cancellation of the council is wrong. He said the court might apply its might on the existence of the council. Rari said BOFEPUSU do not agree that since BOFEPUSU AJA withdrew from the council then no other party can be admitted.

 “Any interested party can apply to the council and if they meet the set out requirement they can be admitted. We do not agree with the DPSM interpretation of the PSBC Constitution. We know the intention is to kill the bargaining power that unions have which is why the Public Service Act is also being amended to dilute the powers of the unions”, said Rari. He explained that the government of Botswana has dented its image through its disregard for labour laws. He said the government wants to see unions just being entities without powers something that would negatively affect the workers.  “They have killed the bargaining power and now they are going for a killer punch to kill the bargaining structure. So nothing would be left and this is regrettable. We are regressing as the country is now violating the same International Labour Laws it has ratified”.

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