Wednesday, September 23, 2020

New BFTU leadership to address problem of low union density

“The casualization of jobs and the insurgency of labour brokering which has resulted in the shrinking of jobs and the increase in precarious jobs that do not provide decency and hope for the future, is a challenge that must be confronted at the earliest opportunity.”

This was said by Austin Muneku, Executive Secretary of the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) in his official address of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) 12th Triennial delegates’ congress recently.

Moneku pointed out that the labour movement was faced with the serious problem of large proportions of working population both in the formal and in the informal economy that is unorganized, and therefore lack representation.

As a result, most of the employees in various sectors of the economy have become vulnerable to exploitation by employers.

The situation, according to Muneku has been compounded by the advent of the global financial and economic crisis which is by far considered the worst since the great depression of the pre World War II period, “Hence the theme, ‘Advocating Social justice for all-now and beyond the current Financial and Economic Crisis”.

He said that the theme could not have come at an opportune time than now when the world was awakening from the worst global crisis, especially so given the fact that most of the economies that depended largely on exports or one commodity whose outcomes are determined by global markets was hit hard.

Consequently, fear has been expressed that, without a timely and proactive steps taken to address the problem of growing numbers of ununionized employees , and therefore diminishing union density, the bargaining capacity of the unions on behalf of their members could soon be jeopardized.

“We have amidst us the so called working poor, which are people in employment but earning income below the poverty line. As democratic and member driven organizations, trade unions must strive to reach out and organize the entire working populations,” motivated the SATUCC Chief.

In addition, Moneku asserted that on account of the present unionization rate of a lowly 20 percent in some sectors, the goal of the BFTU should be to increase the rate of unionization by 80 percent.
Thus, in Moneku’s view, the existence and strength of unions, and ultimately of the federation, lay in numbers and as such organizing new members and the unorganized, needed to be the BFTU’s top priority, adding that the best of the country’s labour laws should be taken advantage of, as they allow for the formation of trade unions.

For his part, the newly elected President of the BFTU, Allan Keitseng, acknowledged the challenges the federation was faced with but pledged to ensure that, collectively with his colleagues in the new executive they become an action oriented team.

“In that regard, we intend that right from the outset of our tenure of office the first priority in our proposed agenda going forward be to engage all of our colleagues in the public sector trade unions with a view to reestablishing commonalities,” said Keitseng.
The next imperative would then be to create a momentum for demanding the establishment of a Labour Court of Appeal, rather than have matters of labour justice be left for court that have other priorities.

Apparently, the recent judgment in which the High Court overruled a judgment of the Industrial Court in favour of unions organizing on the basis of 1/3 of the employees of the employer in the same trade resulted in disillusionment in certain quarters of the labour movement, regarding the justness of the dispute resolution system.

“…Thus, Comrades, I trust that as you deliberate plans, programmes for the coming season take into cognizance the prevailing challenges confronting trade unions and the world and the world of work as well as the urgent need to develop strategies to address these challenges,” concluded Moneku on encouraging the Congress delegates.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.