Public servants reportedly came to the rescue of the Botswana government during the global economic recession by taking a deliberate decision to tone down on their demands for salary increments despite the fact that they were long overdue.
This was revealed by Andrew Motsamai, the President of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), who also added that the recession put the Botswana government in the spotlight, as it emerged that government does not have any fund in place through which public servants can be cushioned against the recession, especially in the event that they are laid off.
Motsamai said that the labour movement saw it fit that they sacrifice and act responsibly in the face of imminent massive job losses and company closures.
In the end, he said, the importance of having a functional labour market policy that would provide meaningful social welfare security for the workers of this country proved stubbornly real.
“Government’s current intervention strategies to ameliorate the effects of the economic crisis on the poor are far too inadequate and unsustainable in the long term,” he said.
This is despite the fact that the International Labour Organization (ILO) agreed at its 98th Session last year that countries should incorporate in their crisis responses, comprehensive strategies aimed at accelerating employment creation, jobs recovery and sustaining enterprises.
Motsamai said that the vulnerable groups, women, youth and the unemployed stand even more exposed to the rigors of the economic meltdown, despite their already pitiable predicament.
Moreover, the traditional economic approach of measuring economic growth using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as well as the random application of the principle of demand and supply on the labor market, has been found questionable and unhelpful in addressing Botswana’s declining life standards and poor labor administration instruments.
This is especially true in the case of Botswana, where growth is considered largely ballooned as it is anchored on just one product namely diamond. While diamond tops as a revenue generator, it employs approximately 10 000 of the country’s total workforce. In contrast, the agriculture, wholesale and retail sectors, which relatively contribute less to the national economy in revenue terms, take the bulk of the workforce, including unskilled labor.
While government schemes, such as Namola Leuba, are welcome, they are problematic in that they are an end rather than a transitory initiative.
“As labour, we believe that in short term and long term growth, workers should be allowed the right to bargain, eligibility to medical and social protection and education of their children,” said a labour research analyst who was commenting on the issue.
For his part Gadzani Mhotsha, Secretary General of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, said that the present public works initiative seems to be premised on perpetuating a dependency syndrome, despite the fact that both Government and employers organizations are party to the Geneva declarations and conventions, which call for decent work for all.