Thursday, June 4, 2020

Gov’t headed for a showdown with trade unions

Government has ignored threats by the public sector trade unions that they will cripple government operations if anything happens to Botswana Landboards and Local Authorities Workers Union (BLLAWU) President Pelotshewu Baeng.

The Establishment Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Peter Mongwaketse said on Monday that they will take action against Baeng in due course.

“We are still dealing with the matter and proper action will be taken in due course,” he said.
The standoff between government and the public sector trade unions comes after Baeng ignored an instruction from his superiors forbidding him to honour an invitation to address the Botswana Congress Party Youth League in Francistown.

In a letter dated April 1, Mongwaketse cautioned Baeng that he would be contravening General Orders 36.1, read with 36.2, which bar public officers from speaking at political gatherings.

“I direct you to withdraw and refrain from participating at the said event,” read the letter.
But a defiant Baeng went ahead and addressed the BCPYL congress, at which he explained that he was speaking not as a public servant, but as a representative of Botswana’s labour movement.

“It should be clear to those shivering that I stand here today not as a member of any political party, nor as an employee under General Orders, but as the President of BLLAWU and on behalf of the labour movement in Botswana. In that capacity, I am recognized by the Constitution of the union, the Trade Unions and Employers Act, and the International Labour Organizations stipulations,” he said.

Information from within the government enclave suggests that government is looking to take harsh action against Baeng and stamp its authority over trade unions, which have recently become very militant.

Public sector trade unions last week warned that they stand by Baeng, and would bring government operations to a standstill if any repressive action is taken against him.

“Should anything happen to Baeng we will bring this country to a stand still for a period that will be determined by us. An injury to Baeng is an injury to all of us,” said Andrew Motsamai, the coordinator of the public sector trade unions.

But Mongwaketsi remains adamant that action will be taken against Baeng.
“What the unions are saying is their own opinion. But we have a responsibility to ensure that set rules and regulations are followed in the public service,” he said.

He, however, could not say exactly what action will be taken against him, saying that the ministry’s legal team is still exploring possibilities.

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