Almost a year after it announced intention to launch an extensive ethical consumption campaign, the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions is finally delivering on that promise. Its first target: Mascom Wireless Botswana.
Last week, the union put the mobile network operator on notice, saying that it is deeply troubled by poor labour relations and violation of labour laws at the company.
“There is ample evidence of victimisation, persecution and discrimination of employees who have unionised at Mascom. These circumstances have led to the unprocedural and unlawful dismissal of the Secretary General of the Union, the pending dismissal of the President of the Union and the rest of membership is petrified. Further to the harassment of Union leaders and members, the Company is vigorously refusing to establish bargaining structures in the workplace for social dialogue to prevail,” reads a letter that BOFEPUSU’s Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, has written to the Chairman of the Mascom Board of Directors.
The devastating news itself is expressed in just one sentence: “We have since taken a decision to mount a massive and catastrophic campaign against Mascom on account of unethical trading and poor labour relations.” Not too long ago, the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) acquired shares in Mascom, becoming the majority shareholder in the company. Motshegwa says that public servants, whom BOFEPUSU represents, cannot have their funds at BPOPF being used “to finance unethical trading and pay salaries of management who is hell bent on terrorising workers.”
BOFEPUSU announced an impending ethical consumption last year, with Motshegwa revealing at the time that the union was putting a strategy paper. While Mascom is the currently the focus of such campaign, the Secretary General indicated that this would be a broader campaign.
“The strategy entails giving a blue print to all industries as to how they should conduct themselves on workers’ issues. The strategy also involves naming and shaming businesses or entities that violate and undermine workers rights in an effort to urge workers and the public that, on the basis of the violation of worker rights, such entities do not deserve income from workers or the public. We are saying so because workers and trade unions have the capacity and capability to influence the conduct of business entities and ensure that entities that violate workers’ rights don’t survive as they are dangerous to humanity,” he said.
Ethical consumption or consumerism, as this kind of boycott is called, is about buying products and services that are made and distributed under ethical conditions. By making ethically informed consumption choices, consumers contribute to improving the lives and well-being of the vulnerable and weak. This strategy is being successfully used by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement, which advocates applying economic and political pressure on Israel to achieve equal rights for Palestinians in Israel and an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Last year, Veolia, a French infrastructure corporation, sold off its final investment in Israel as a direct result of the BDS boycott campaign.