Saturday, July 4, 2020

Labour activist speaks on the need for unity in workplace amid Covid-19

Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved,” – so says an American poet Mattie Stepanek.

In the labour sector, in Botswana to be precise, the question lately has become: How do you build team unity and foster a sense of belonging amongst a group of individuals that may have little in common outside of the fact that they are employees of the same company?

The question became even more critical during times of Covid 19 social distancing, when some employees were working remotely. Some local labour sector pundits maintain that it is increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of unity while amongst Batswana workers who are apart from one another. Despite this, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatals Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) however maintains that employees do not have to necessarily sit on the side-lines while decisions that involve their livelihood are taking place.

BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa says

as a national trade union centre, the federation has the responsibility of providing direction in national industrial relations particularly in protecting, advancing, and deepening workers’ rights.

“Workers of this country are facing serious violation of workers’ rights and poor conditions of service. It is the approach of BOFEPUSU that the emancipation of working class must be the working class itself. We undertake to help workers establish workers committees so that they can organise and come together to speak as one voice at a table with employer. This is necessary because if workers are divided, they will not achieve their interests in the workplace.

Motshegwa says the development of well-trained labour officials should therefore be regarded as a precondition for enhancement and growth of labour movement in Botswana. Education can shape the overall competitiveness of the labour movement within all spheres of social dialogue.

“We are also assisting workers particularly in private sector with workers education. The progressive expansion of labour education and the improvement in its range and quality should be at the centre of any BOFEPUSU activity.”

Historically in the global space including in Botswana, the issue of employer benefits such as making profits and employee benefits such as wage increment has always pitted the two side against each other. As employers need to make profits while improved conditions are at a cost, whereas employees understand that improved conditions of service do not come on a silver platter. It is of great importance that both sides consider a common ground which is the existence of the organisation before claiming the fruits of the labour.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.