Wednesday, January 19, 2022

COSATU, BFTU probe South African companies in Botswana

South Africa’s biggest and militant trade movement, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) will launch an investigation to establish if companies headquartered in that country and also operating in Botswana are not violating South African labor practices in Botswana.

The investigation, which will be conducted in collaboration with the Botswana Federations of Trade Unions (BFTU), comes in the wake of a landmark meeting between COSATU representatives and the management of Choppies following a labor dispute between the retail giant and some of its employees in South Africa.

COSATU was also in the country on a fact finding mission to establish among others, if Choppies stores employees in Botswana were not unfairly treated.

Sunday Standard is informed that most South African companies that operate in Botswana violate the country’s labor laws while local employees of the same companies are not remunerated as much as their counterparts in South Africa and do not enjoy the same conditions of service.

BFTU Secretary General, Gadzani Mhotsha confirmed that they held a meeting with the COSATU delegation to discuss a number of issues affecting employees in Botswana who are employed in the retail and tourism industries.

“They were in the country to meet with Choppies management and they later met with us. We have been working hand in hand with COSATU on a number of issues. We are confident that their recent visit is going to be helpful in dealing with a number of issues. One of the major issues involves multinational companies that are operating in Botswana but headquartered in South Africa. When they come to Botswana, such companies don’t treat their workers the same way their treat their employees in South Africa,” said Mhotsha.

“Conditions of service in South Africa are relatively better, but when these companies come here they do not apply the same conditions of service that they are applying in South Africa,” he added.
Mhotsha said Choppies, the retail giant, was initially hostile to unionization, but has since opened its doors to ensure that their 6000 strong employees in Botswana will now be joining trade unions as members.

For his part Choppies Chief Executive Officer, Ram Ottapath described the meeting with COSATU as ‘good.’

“We agreed with them that an independent investigator should look into some of the contentious issues. But overall it was not a big issue, it’s only that the media blew it out of proportion,” he said.

Ottapah added that “It is employees’ right to unionize. They can join any union of their choice in Botswana or South Africa.”

COSATU’s North West Provincial Secretary, Solly Phetoe said “COSATU and BFTU will be developing a joint program of the two federations to make sure that workers’ rights of the two federations are respected in the two countries, in particular by retailers in the North West (Province) and Botswana”. He said it was imperative that workers are educated on the role of trade unions at the work place.

“Our mission has confirmed that a majority of workers, in particular in retailers, including Choppies are not unionized. We faced a critical challenge in organizing workers to join the union as they were intimated at some stage. The BFTU will be launching a recruitment program on 1st August in Botswana as part of their program of building a strong labor movement.”

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