Saturday, October 16, 2021

Botswana accused of breaking ILO rules

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has wrapped the Botswana Government on knuckles over violation of international labour issues.

In its latest report, one of the issues that ILO took issue with was the Botswana Government’s decision to refuse to allow prison officers to unionize.

ILO committee noted that the Botswana Government’s statement that the prison service is part of the disciplined force justifying its exclusion from the Convention is invalid.

The Committee observed that while the prison service does form part of the disciplined force of Botswana together with the armed forces and the police, (article 19(1) of the Constitution), each of these categories is governed by separate legislation.

In its view, the Committee said that the prison service cannot be considered to be part of the armed forces or the police for the purposes of exclusion.

The Committee requested the Botswana Government once again to take the necessary measures, including the pertinent legislative amendments, to grant members of the prison service all rights guaranteed by the Convention.

The Committee revealed that it had previously requested the Government of Botswana to amend section 2 of the Trade Disputes Act (TDA) and section 2 of the Trade Union and Employers’ Organizations Act (TUEO Act), which exclude employees of the prison service from their scope of application, as well as section 35 of the Prison Act, which deprives members of the prison service from the right to unionize under the threat of being dismissed.

On other related issues, the Committee noted with concern the indication of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) that section 46 of the new Trade Disputes Bill (Bill No. 21 of 2015) enumerates a broad list of essential services, including the Bank of Botswana, diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, operational and maintenance services of the railways, veterinary services in the public service, teaching services, government broadcasting services, immigration and customs services, and services necessary to the operation of any of these services.

The Committee also observed that in line with section 46(2) of the Trade Disputes Bill, the Minister may declare any other service as essential if its interruption for at least seven days endangers the life, safety or health of the whole or part of the population or harms the economy.

“Recalling that, in light of the right of workers’ organizations to organize their activities and formulate their programmes, essential services, in which the right to strike may be prohibited or restricted, should be limited to those the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population, the Committee considers that the services enumerated do not constitute essential services in the strict sense of the term and that harm to the economy caused by the interruption of a service is insufficient to consider it as an essential service,” reads the report.

 The Committee requested the Botswana Government to take the necessary measures to amend the draft Trade Disputes Act to reduce the list of essential services accordingly.

According to ILO, it had received on 13 September 2016, a report from BFTU alleging that in relation to collective bargaining, the Government is adopting repressive measures instead of facilitating and promoting adherence to the Convention.

The report also stated that its noted exclusion of profession-based trade unions from collective bargaining at the national level and persistent persecution of trade union leaders for union activities.

The Committee therefore requested the Government to provide its comments on these observations, as well as on the pending observations alleging violations of the right to collective bargaining in practice.

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