The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) has declared a wage dispute over the 2013/14 salary negotiations with government this week with the country facing a tough challenge to avoid a repeat of another strike.
BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa confirmed the possibility of a strike across the country early next year. BOFEPUSU has since declared a deadlock at the Bargaining Council and consequently referred the matter to the Commissioner of Labour.
He said their members have given them the mandate to go on strike should mediation scheduled for 23 December not produce the desired results.
“They have given us the mandate. Should mediation fail then we will call a strike. In fact the federation is putting mechanisms in place to embark on the possibility of a strike should the dispute resolution not bear any fruit,” he said. He called on the public and employees to be psychologically prepared for the ensuing industrial action adding that the strike will be aimed at restoring the workers purchasing power.
“The employer is not willing to negotiate; in fact the employer is negotiating in bad faith. They are not saying anything as far as salary talks are concerned,” said Motshegwa. He said the employer does not respect the Bargaining Council as an institution of dialogue. He made reference to a court order by Justice Abenigo Tafa interdicting government from suspending the operations in the Bargaining Council.
For the past three months, the Bargaining Council has not been operational, stalling salary negotiations.
“I don’t foresee the mediation bearing fruit. I mean if the employer cannot respect a court order can they respect the mediation process?” wondered Motshegwa.
Asked if they would be resuming the suspension of the 2011 strike that nearly brought the country’s economy to its knees, Motshegwa explained that it would be a fresh industrial action.
Making reference to the fact that the country will hold general elections next year, Motshegwa said should the union go ahead with the strike, “circumstances will be in our favour.”
“It has been six years without salary hike for workers. This time around mobilisation will be more advanced in terms of strategy. Some of the workers who were not part of the last strike are in fact looking forward to this strike, they have given us the go ahead,” said Motshegwa rubbishing claims that following the impact of the 201ll strike on some employees who were sacked by government, some of them employees may not want a repeat of that.
In 2011, close to a 100,000 public servants, including about 1,500 considered essential workers, stayed away from their posts while government and unions tussled over salaries.
The protracted strike had also had a negative impact on the economy, causing serious cash flow problems for many companies that relied on government orders for goods and services.