The anticipation of the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) is that by now the Minister of Basic Education and the leadership of the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) should be taking really long pulls on a peace pipe. The sad reality though is that the two parties interact in a no-smoking zone (boardroom) with no such pipe to smoke. The result is that contrary to what the Plan projects, teacher grievances are skyrocketing.
An overly ambitious document, the ETSSP lays out the dream of “harmonised industrial relations environment” in government schools. The milestones for the short-term 2015-16 period were a review of labour relations as well as developing, validating and implementing a collaborative engagement strategy. In that same period and based on 2014 figures, there was to be a 45 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files. In the medium-term 2017-18 period and based on 2014 figures, there was to be a 75 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files. A raft of activities were prescribed in service of meeting these lofty targets: establish labour/employee/industrial relations system; train selected management and staff in labour law, employment policy and practices, labour relations, conflict resolution, collective bargaining and others; develop and implement policy, strategies, and an annual operational plan; develop an industrial/employee/labour relations practice that utilizes a preventative strategy towards its activities; and develop and prepare an employee voice programme with a structured feedback mechanism.
However, as a BOSETU meeting in Mahalapye heard recently, the number of grievances has gone up drastically. The situation is not about to change any time soon because the Plan’s implementation is sluggish and schools are still being run the way they always have. This will frustrate stated intent to have almost eliminated dispute and grievance files by 2020.
Botswana has always had a problem with implementing its beautifully-written policies but with particular regard to harmonised industrial relations, the authors were being delusional. The Plan was written at a time that BOSETU was, as part of a public sector trade union collective, was fighting the government. The two parties fell out after the 2011 strike by civil servants that, in turn, provoked President Ian Khama to gut labour law of protections for workers.