Tensions between Government and Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) are expected to reach boiling point with the unions threatening to drag Labour and Home Affairs Minister Edwin Batshu following his decision to exclude them from consultative meetings to discuss proposed amendments to the Dispute and Trade Act.
The unions through their lawyers, Kambai Attorneys have issued a statutory notice notifying the Attorney General of their intention to sue Batshu for holding the meeting behind their back.
The unions state that on 26 November this year, Batshu held a consultative meeting with the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) and the meeting was to discuss the proposed amendments to the Trade Disputes Act among other things.
BOFEPUSU said that it was not invited by the Minister to the consultative meeting notwithstanding that it is an organisation that represents a considerable number of workers in the Civil Service and has a profound interest in the outcome of the said consultative meeting.
The Unions said it is in possession of a letter from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Permanent Secretary whose essence was to encourage BOFEPUSU to negotiate with Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) for possible slots at the LAB and other consultative structures or arrangements.
“We are of the respectful opinion that the purported letter is null and void as the letter seems to place BOFEPUSU’s participation or invitation at LAB meeting at the pleasure of another federation, viz BFTU,” said the unions.
BOFEPUSU says that it is an autonomous lawfully federation hence it is entitled to an invitation to the LAB and Consultative Reports of the ILO on its own right.
“The Minister has no power in terms of the Employment Act to delegate the power to invite a Federation representative of workers in the public service to another federation.,” the unions said.
BOFEPUSU had written to Batshu requesting him to consider suspending the LAB meeting in order to invite BOFEPUSU but Batshu called the unions Secretary General Tobokani Rari to express his refusal either to invite BOFEOUSU or to suspend the meeting. The result is that the meeting went ahead without BOFEPUSU being represented.
The unions further requested Batshu inform the LAB to convene a meeting to consult BOFEOUSU as they believe the interest of BOFEPUSU members were not adequately addressed in the 26th November 2015 LAB meeting.
Kambai Attorneys warn Batshu that should he fail, neglect or refuse to heed their client’s request, they intend to approach the Court at the expiration of the statutory notice.
The lawyers say that approaching court is unnecessary should Batshu give a written undertaking that he will not present the BILL in Parliament before convening the LAB for purposes of taking representations from BOFEPUSU.
The Unions further said that litigation is needless to resolve the dispute should Batshu consider a supplementary consultative process by inviting BOFEPUSU to make representations to the LAB on the proposed amendments to the Trade Disputes Act as well as consultative reports of the ILO.