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Govt Frustrates Combative Labour Unions

The Botswana Federations of Public Service Unions(BOFEPUSU) has expressed
alarm at the review of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008 saying
amendments make unwarranted and unjustified inroads into constitutionally
entrenched principles of freedom of association and right to bargain
collectively.

It is also averred that the amendments erode progressive strides made over
the years by Botswana in complying with various International Labour
Organizations(ILO) standards on the autonomy of trade unions and the
bargaining process.

Unions complain, “A proposed clause 3(2)(a) seeks to exclude members of
senior management from the scope of application of part XIII to past XV of
the Act dealing with freedom of association and collective bargaining.” It
is further indicated, that “There is no justification in seeking to take
away the right to freedom of association from members of senior management.”

In terms of Clause 3(2)(c) it is proposed that support staff of the
Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Police Service and Botswana Prison
Services be excluded from enjoying the right to freedom of association and
participation in the collective bargaining process.

“The position in Botswana has always been to exclude the said employees
from joining trade unions that represent other employees who are
non-managerial employees, whilst allowing them to be represented by unions
that only represent members of management.”

Union leaders also take exception to provisions preventing public servants
with access to confidential information from unionizing, stipulating that
exercise of powers and duties under the revised Act should be subject to
directions of President and rebukes attempts to enable Permanent Secretary
of the President to appoint Secretary of Public Service Bargaining Council.

Labour leader also feel aggrieved by Clause 80(1) which provides that
recognition will entitle a union to one seat at the PSBC meaning a union
like the National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal
Workers Union with about 30,000 members will have the same voice as the
Trainers and Allied Workers Union with 200 members.

Whilst applauding reimbursements for shift work and overtime, union leaders
took issue with section 69(4) which criminalizes willful breach of contract
by the employee with serious consequences such as a fine not exceeding
P60,000 and imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.

In her response the Director of Public Service Management(DPSM) Ruth
Maphorisa revealed that there was nothing sinister in Clause 16 empowering
President to interfere with administration of the Public Service.

Maphorisa averred, that “It makes sense that the exercise of powers and
duties should be subject to the general directions of the President as the
Public Service and its administration falls under the executive arm of
Government.”

DPSM has also described as progressive provision under Clause 74(1)
providing that a threshold is not a requirement to enter the PSBC, there
will be proliferation of trade unions who shall, upon registration, qualify
to sit in the bargaining council.”

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