Botswana’s labour relations system has suffered a severe blow after the Commissioner of Labour, in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA), Rose Sennanyana, rejected an application filed by the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to register the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).
The reason advanced was that there were portions of the constitution which have been queried by two BFTU affiliates, namely Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and Botswana Government Workers Union (BOGOWU).
Sennanyana stated in a letter to the DPSM Director, that her office has been served with court papers to the effect that the intervention of the Industrial Court has been sought to interpret some sections of Council constitution and section as well as those of the new public service act, 2008.
“As I regard these as key issues in the registration of the PSBC, I am unable to accede to your request to register the bargaining council.”
The letter has been copied to five unions; the Botswana Public Service Employees Union (BOPEU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Secondary Teachers Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Land Board Administration and Local Authorities Union (BLLAWU) as well as National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGWU).
The Office of the Commissioner intimated that since they were still seized with the matter, it would be difficult to comment.
Osesenaqa Lekgoko, Senior Public Relations Manager at the MLHA said, “Once all the arising matters have been settled, we will be in a better and more informed position to address your questions.”
President of BOPEU, Andrew Motsamai, said, “Although we are aware that papers served the Commissioner were flawed as they were not accompanied by referral papers, it is nonetheless important that the matter goes to court.”
Motsamai pointed out how seriously they regarded the matter.
For his part, Edward Tswaipe, Secretary General of TAWU, argued that, besides the usually lengthy periods taken to dispose cases before the IC, this must be seen in the context of the incompetence at the DPSM, both for failing to manage the transitional process into unionized environment and inability to adopt a neutral stand to garner the necessary confidence as an employer of renown.
“Although all this was avoidable, the entire government is now destined for a crisis with the imminent risk of government employees losing out on the chance to bargain or influence their salaries and important welfare matters and conditions of work, because there will be no bargaining platform,” posited Tswaipe.