Hundreds of non-essential services government workers who are defying the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) leadership decision to call off the strike are likely to be dismissed from work.
Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Festinah Bakwena, announced this week that government will be taking disciplinary action against workers who did not return to work on Monday after BOFEPUSU called off the strike. The DPSM has announced that government will be ticking an attendance register until the situation has normalized.
Cracks began to emerge among the striking employees last week as some of them broke ranks with the leadership and shot down suggestions that the strike should be suspended. Many of the workers on Thursday howled BOFEPUSU Labour Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, down after he broached the idea of a suspending the strike, even accusing him of selling out to the employer. They accused the leadership of taking unilateral decisions on their behalf, saying the decision to suspend the strike should be made by the general membership.
“The leadership should have called a special congress at which the members would decide if they are suspending the strike or not,” they said.
By Friday, BOFEPUSU General Secretary, Andrew Motsamai, confirmed that some of the members had called on them to resign so that a new leadership could be chosen to take the strike forward.
By Monday scores of civil servants throughout the country had not returned to work in defiance against the union leadership’s decision to call off the strike. Public servants who refused to go back to work clashed with the police as they were dispersed.
Johnson Motshwarakgole rubbished accusations that they betrayed striking public servants. He said they were simply implementing resolutions of the last special congress, at which the leadership was mandated to do what they can to make sure that fired essential services workers return to work.
“Right now that the employer is busy re-employing fired workers. They promised to re-employ all of them. Some have already gotten their appointment letters,” he said.
Asked if he was aware that the Director of Public Service Management Festinah Bakwena had announced that not all dismissed workers will be rehired, Motshwarakgole said: “Bakwena would never say such a thing.”
However, government has indicated that not all fired essential services workers will be re-employed as government has already outsourced some of their duties.
Motshwarakgole said they decided to suspend the strike after violence erupted throughout the country last week.
“We have to investigate if this violence is committed by our members or by security agents who have infiltrated us,” he said.
He also admitted that they never thought the strike would last this long, and that their members were becoming fatigued.
“Most of our members were beginning to trek back to work. Some were financially crippled, and we could not go on this way,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bakwena has warned that those who refuse to return to work will face disciplinary action. Labour pundits have commented that the decision to suspend the strike has somehow weakened the public servants’ faith in their leadership. But Motshwarakgole insists that they return to work as a strong and united front. He said the strike will continue as BOFEPUSU intends to implement long weekends, in which employees will not go to work on Fridays and Mondays.