Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatals and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has rejected the suspension of engaging in an industrial action by employees during the state of emergency period. According to the federation the elimination of the Right to Strike as per the regulations of Emergency Powers Act is an attack on Convention 87 of Freedom of Association and Convention 98 of Protection of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.
BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said the withdrawal of the right to strike tilts power in favour of the employer, thereby rendering workers powerless at the platform of workplace social dialogue for they have been disarmed. According to Motshegwa the employer can do as s/he pleases, and even trample upon the rights of employees and offer them poor conditions of service and welfare.
"Freedom of Association is critical for peace and social justice in Industrial Democracy. The Committee on Freedom of Association has jurisprudence on the right to strike to guide members or nations”. Motshegwa said this Committee and the Committee of Experts has put forth principles of the right to strike. This right has been affirmed in the 1957 'Resolution concerning the abolition of anti-Trade Union legislation in the Member States of the International Labour Organisation and the 1970 'resolution concerning Trade Union Rights and Their Relation to Civil Liberties ', as well as numerous resolutions of the ILO's regional Conferences and Industrial Committees, and by other International bodies, Motshegwa explained.
He posited that the elimination of the Right to Strike regrettably renders unionisation meaningless and was designed to offer employees deplorable conditions knowing that there is nothing they can do. It must also be emphasised that it is not like workers will recklessly resort to labour withdrawal unreasonably, he argued. The federation leader said a strike comes as a last resort as power demonstration by workers when an employer becomes unreasonable and heartless in addressing workers’ welfare, conditions of service, and it comes after exhaustion of all dispute resolution processes.
The suspension of the right to strike comes after a Special Parliament Meeting on Thursday this week endorsed President Mokgweetsi Masisi's request for State of Public Emergency to last for six (6) months. Recently unions representing health workers who are frontliners in the fight against COVID-19, threatened to withdraw services if government continues to fail to give them protective equipment.