By the government own admission, the management of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development is the primary cause of conflict with the Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Union and the Botswana Teachers Union. While it doesn’t use such precise terms, the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) characterises ministry management as something of an autocratic structure that is natively oriented towards conflict especially by denying employees a platform to voice their grievances.
Developed by MoESD with the assistance of the European Union, the ETSSP is a brand new framework that is designed “to refocus our education and training towards fulfillment of social and economic aspirations identified in our Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE), the National Development Plan, Vision 2016 and as well as the Millennium Development Goals.” Part of such process entails the strengthening of relations with employee bodies for “strengthened education partnerships.” According to the ETSSP, “Poor management practices in the Ministry contribute significantly to the excessive quantities of conflict and dispute resolution files.”
It further notes that with a total employee body of some 37,000 “there is no effective employee voice mechanism, and no structured communication strategy or plan.” Such adverse industrial relations naturally affect the quality of service rendered by both parties and the ETSSP seeks to “have collaborative engagement between employer and employees in decision making processes for quality service delivery.” In the short-term (2015-16), labour relations will be reviewed, an engagement strategy collaboratively developed, the strategy validated and implemented and based on 2014 figures, a 45 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files will be realised. In the medium-term (2017-18) and based on 2014 figures, a 75 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files will be realised and the strategy monitored. In the long-term (2019-20) and based on 2014 figures, a 90 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files will be realised and the impact of the strategy will be assessed.
Activities that are to be undertaken include the establishment of a labour/employee/industrial relations system; training selected management and staff in labour law, employment policy and practices, labour relations, conflict resolution and collective bargaining, developing and implementing policy, strategies, and an annual operational plan; developing an industrial/employee/labour relations practice that utilises a preventative strategy towards its activities; and developing and preparing an “employee voice programme” with a structured feedback mechanism. Interestingly though, the ETSSP could well be describing industrial relations in the entire civil service because MoESD functions just like all other government ministries and departments.