Friday, December 3, 2021

Bargaining council off to a shaky start

The long awaited formation of the Public Service Bargaining Council kicked off to a shaky start last week after the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and the recognized public sector unions in Botswana finally managed to form an interim bargaining council.

Sunday Standard is informed that DPSM Director, Festinah Bakwena, and her staff on Tuesday met with representative of the six recognized public sector unions and they agreed to form an interim council and its secretariat. This was kick started by the Commissioner of Labour, Rose Sennanyana’s decision last month to register the council, despite threats of legal action by some public sector trade unions.

Trade unions representatives have confirmed that an interim bargaining council has been formed. The Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEOUSU), Andrew Motsamai, on Friday said they agreed with the employer that the bargaining council should start functioning as a matter of urgency.

“But you have to note that the member unions should apply, and qualify, for admission into the bargaining council. To that end, all recognized unions were asked to nominate one individual each to sit on the interim bargaining council. Two more people were nominated to sit on the interim secretariat,” said Motsamai.

Shandukani Hlabano and Willard Ulaula have been nominated to sit on the interim secretariat. Hlabano is the President of BOSETU and represents the unions while Ulaula represents government. Some of the trade union members who will sit in the interim council include Sikalame Seitiso, Tobokani Rari, Michael Mothibi and Robert Rabasimane.

The formation of the bargaining council has been dogged in controversy. One of the contentious issues in the council’s constitution is for all members to have a membership of 36 000 to qualify to sit on council. The Tertiary and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) are against this requirement, and see it as a ploy by their detractors, BOFEPUSU, to exclude them from the council.

TAWU has in the past warned that setting a threshold based on trade union alliances may prove detrimental in future as trade union alliances change.

“The 36 000 threshold that BOFEPUSU is setting is premised entirely on the continued affiliation of all its current members. What happens in future if one of BOFEPUSU’s members decides to pull out?” asked TAWU Vice President Edward Tswaipe.

In the past, Tswaipe has accused BOFEPUSU and the employer of colluding to keep TAWU out of the council. He was recently quoted in the media saying they will fight all the way to ensure that the exclusive clause in the council’s constitution is repealed.

The delay in the formation of the council has been a cause of concern among both politicians and trade unionists. Many felt that, by engaging in petty squabbles, the trade unions were reversing the gains that they made when the new Public Service Act was enacted in May 2010. In the past, the opposition Botswana National Front has accused government of failing to provide proper guidance to facilitate the smooth formation of the bargaining council.

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