Sunday, February 28, 2021

‘Labour laws need consolidating not reviewing’

A showdown is looming between the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the government over the latter plans to review a raft of labour laws.
Presenting the 2015/16 budget speech, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, said that the government plans to review labour laws such as the Employment Act, Trade Disputes Act, Workers’ Compensation Act and Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisations Act in order “to facilitate harmonious industrial relations and also to make the labour relations environment conducive for investment.” From what the BOFEPUSU spokesperson, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa says, the government will not find common ground with the trade union collective on this particular issue.
“We see no reason for a review of our labour laws. What should instead happen is the consolidation of the separate pieces of labour laws that we have. Even the High Court stated during the strike case that some of these laws contradict each other,” says Motshegwa referring to the 2011 strike by public sector unions that spawned a litany of court cases.
He cites the example of maternity leave as articulated in the Public Service Act and the Employment Act. While the former makes provision for such leave for public servants, the latter excludes public service employees for enjoyment of such leave. The other example he gives is of strike action which the Public Service Act and the Trade Dispute Act make contradictory pronouncements on. The ideal he cites is of the South African situation where the Labour Relations Act encapsulates all labour-related laws.
Motshegwa is doubtful of the approach the government has taken “to facilitate harmonious industrial relations.” What strikes him as odd is that on determining that there is disharmony that needs to be resolved, the government decides to make an announcement about its plans to parliament without having taken unions on board.
“The Collective Labour Agreement requires the government to take us on board. We shouldn’t have to hear about plans to reviews these laws for the first time when the minister addresses parliament,” he says.

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