More than 3000 names have been struck off the BOFEPUSU membership roll at the Interim Public Service Bargaining Council because they belong to two unions. The dual membership incidence is most rampant in teacher unions, namely the Botswana Teachers Union and the Botswana Sector of Educators Union.
Speaking at the BOSETU Primary Sector Leadership Forum held in Gaborone on Thursday, a union official said that contrary to popular belief there was “no BTU/BOSETU battleground” but only noble attempt on the part of the latter to urge the former to pass on the baton to a new and younger breed of trade unionists. The official would, to expand his martial metaphor, be hard put to deny that is an army of double agents who belong to both unions.
Dual membership poses a serious threat to the survival of BOFEPUSU, the loose confederation of said unions that came into being in 2007. The formation of this Union has in turn led to the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) whose rules expressly forbid dual membership. One of the Council’s rules is that the Federation should submit a complete membership list which is then perused to weed out dual members.
A BOFEPUSU source tells Sunday Standard that during the inspection of the lists, some 3452 names, virtually all of them of teachers, appeared twice and were automatically disqualified for membership. Virtually all of the disqualified members are teachers registered with both BOSETU and BTU.
The battleground is not in the realm of trade unionism proper but finance. Union membership attracts benefits – which in one respect is code for ‘loans.’ A teacher who belongs to BTU and BOSETU is able to get benefits from both unions. The PSBC has a membership threshold and the more the incidence of dual membership rises, the more BOFEPUSU’s ranks are decimated, threatening the Union’s eligibility for membership of the Bargaining Council.
The dual membership issue was raised at the BOFEPUSU inaugural congress last month. The congress’ secretariat report said of this issue: “Dual membership remains a challenge in the Federation which can [deflate] our members and has to be tackled.”