The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions has rubbished claims by the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Peter Siele, that he consulted the workers before re-tabling the motion on declaration of teachers, veterinary services and others as essential services.
When re-tabling the motion last week, Siele told parliament that he had consulted the affected workers and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions.
However, BFTU Secretary General, Gadzani Mhotsha, rubbished his claims, saying it was BFTU who sought audience with Siele and not vice-versa.
“We are left wondering what the minister’s agenda is. We sought a meeting with Siele on June 20th. Siele never consulted us. We are the ones who went to see him to ask him to consult with the workers before taking the motion back to parliament. We condemn his behavior in the strongest possible terms,” said Mhotsha.
At the June meeting, BFTU warned Siele that they will launch an international campaign against government if he re-tables the motion without consulting.
They also expressed concern that Botswana was losing the gains that she made after ratifying ILO Conventions.
At the meeting, Siele explained that he was under duress because of the recent public sector strike, and he found it difficult to consult widely before re-tabling the motion.
He, however, promised to retable the motion during the November sitting of parliament, so that he finds time to consult. BFTU was, therefore, taken aback when Siele re-tabled the motion last week.
BFTU also expressed worry that government intends to classify all public services as essential, given that more and more services are being included in the list.
“The rush and high degree of disingenuousness displayed by government is disappointing. The current list is a fourth version of the same statutory instrument. Our fear is that this list will continue to grow until all services are classified as essential,” said Mhotsha. Siele was forced to beat a hasty retreat last month when parliament unanimously shot down the motion, saying he had not consulted the affected employees.
“This is a typical example of a very angry law, made by a very angry minister representing a very angry government,” said Botswana Congress Party President Dumelang Saleshando at the time.
The Office of the President later released a statement expressing disappointment at parliament’s decision. The opposition rubbished the statement, saying the annulment received unanimous, non partisan support from Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition in parliament, Botsalo Ntuane, said the Office of the President’s statement is a clear indication of President Khama’s overbearing presence on parliamentary affairs.
“The sentiments expressed in the statement betray the commonly held perception by the Presidency that Parliament exists to rubberstamp the desires and┬áwishes of the Executive. This statement amounts to disrespect for the processes of Parliament, and undermines the integrity of those who are mandated by the people to represent their interests,” said Ntuane.
He said threats that the Statutory Instrument will be reissued, despite the fact that Section 144 of the Employment Act compels the Executive to consult the labour movement on the issue before making a final decision on it, shows a lack of commitment to the rule of law and contempt for the democratic process of consultation.