The cash strapped Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has been suspended from IndustriAll Global Union for failure to pay membership subscription fees.
Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that BMWU subscription arrears run into nearly three years although specific figures could not be obtained. It also emerged that BMWU, which is experiencing cash flow problems, has not been paying its subscription fees to the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) until recently.
The IndustriAll areas span before the International federation which BMWU was affiliated to merge with two other confederations to form IndustriAll, inheriting the liabilities of its component members.
BMWU acting President, Joseph Tsimako, acknowledged that they have not been paying subscription fees to IndustriAll, arguing that it was common knowledge that his union is seized with many court cases affecting their members.
He, however, played down the issue saying it was not disaffiliation as such, but suspension.
“You are aware that we have the case of 461, another of 181 and again we cannot rule out legal engagement with the employer over the scanex-Xray issue, all of these involve lots of money thus we were unable to meet our obligations because of running costs,” said Tsimako.
The BMWU official pointed out that it is against that background that it was not possible to even service their obligations with Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) until recently.
The rule in most organizations, including IndustriAll, is that breach of subscription obligations for a specified period of months in a row results in membership being automatically set in abeyance.
Fabian Nkomo, Representative of IndustriAll, Sub Saharan Africa Regional Office (SSARO) based in Johannesburg, South Africa, has confirmed the action in an interview over the weekend at BMWU May Day celebrations in Kanye.
He further said “after careful consideration of their situation as communicated to us it was decided to help them regularise”.
“Thus, I must say that the matter has been resolved and we will in due course communicate the decision to the relevant structures, as it is not in our practice to relay information to members through the media,” said Nkomo.
The IndustriAll Official further commented, “Ideally, I shouldn’t be discussing this because we wouldn’t like by any means to create room for outside forces with ulterior motives to make it look like something very big has happened when in fact there are more important issues out there.”
A source close to labour says the move by IndustriAll to reconsider BMWU’s reincorporation may be borne of the fact that these are voluntary institutions, where one has to tread with caution or lose members.
“The only time breach of procedure or subscriptions led to permanent dismissal would be if it involved discipline, otherwise the tendency is to nurture the offenders, initially denying them benefits like travel, training and, more importantly, solidarity in times of national need,” said one labour analyst.
He, however, pointed out that the inherent danger with this kid glove approach, rather than out right dismissal, is that those who fail to honour their obligations, usually end up looking for excuses to cover for their non- compliance and start causing divisive situations.
BMWU was affiliated to International Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Union, then known as ICEM, which later merged with two other confederations to form IndustriAll.
“The idea is that in like manner as big companies, multinationals and even countries like the European Union join together, labour should also form a strong block for irresistible impact,” concluded Nkomo.