The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) on Monday called on the government to return to the negotiation table in order to avert a nationwide public sector strike.
Warning that the economic, social and health consequences of a nationwide strike are too serious to imagine, the BCP said it rejects the government’s argument that salary adjustment is
unaffordable because the economic recovery is going through a fragile stage.
“Recent spending pattern defeats the government argument. The BDP government is preaching belt tightening while they are doing the exact opposite. Lives might be lost during the strike. The disaster that characterized the 2010 examinations is still fresh in our minds ÔÇô all because of the intransigence of the government,” said the party’s Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, in a media statement.
Gobotswang warned that the BCP will hold government accountable for the suffering caused by a strike that could have been averted.
“As the employer, government must accept that the times when they used to make unilateral decisions on labour matters are over. It is also unhelpful for the President to be making pronouncements on any aspects of the negotiations while the employer and the unions are still locked up in the talks,” he warned.
The party estimates that during the last three years, the salary of public service employees may have been eroded by 26 percent due to high inflation partly induced by the controversial alcohol levy. In addition, the party is worried that there has been an unprecedented introduction of a series of levies as well as an increase in VAT.
“Escalating fuel prices resulted in the sky rocketing of the cost of transportation and increased cost of basic food commodities. The combined net effect of these developments has put a severe strain on household disposable income. It is in this context that the public servants are demanding a salary adjustment. For these reasons the BCP believes that the demands of public service unions are legitimate. The strike is a result of the collapse of the negotiations between the employer and public service employees. The public servants are legitimately demanding a 12.5 percent inflation adjustment and a 2.5 percent salary increase. The BCP has lauded public servants for having patiently put up with difficult working conditions in the last three years.
“This was in recognition of the global economic recession that affected government revenue mainly on account of poor diamonds sales. The unions have also indicated that the 16 percent they are demanding is not cast on stone,” Gobotswang observed.