Government operations face collapse following last week’s threat by public serve trade unions to align with opposition political parties and mount a crippling strike action if their demands are not met.
In a letter addressed to the all party parliamentary caucus, the unions threatened that they are “ready to undertake a strike action of a magnitude and proportion never before experienced in the public service”.
Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) General Secretary, Topias Marenga, acting on behalf of the public service unions, warned that the labour movement will enter into partisan politics and align themselves with political parties if government continues to ignore their interests.
“It is with great regret that public service unions, acting on behalf of over 90 000 persons employed by government, have to seek audience with the all party caucus to express disappointment with the delay in implementation of the New Public Act of 2008. As a result of this our comrades continue to be subjected to unfair labour practices and to draconian pieces of legislation that are out to kilter with labour practices in civilised communities. Of particular concern is the rampant rise in early retirements of public officers,” reads the letter.
The New Public Service Act was signed by President Seretse Khama Ian Khama on December 2008, with the promise that it would be implemented by April 2009. But government has since been giving the unions the run around. In December 2009, Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister Lesego Motsumi promised that the act would be implemented in March of this year. While the unions were afraid that government was delaying in implementing the act because she wanted to re-introduce some provisions, among them section 15(3), which gives government the powers to dismiss public servants without justifying the dismissals, the minister indicated at the time that government has decided not to reintroduce the draconian clause because it would be counterproductive and mala fides to do so.
But March 1st has come and gone, and the unions are now on the war path, labelling the delay as “illegal because it is both irrational and unreasonable”.
“We have waited for more than 14 months for the delay. Our members patience has been stretched to the limit,” read the statement.
To that end the public service unions have decided to seek the favour of political parties as they have realised that their members’ interests will not be addressed if they do not have politicians in their corner.
“Our members are ready to enter into the arena of partisan politics to ensure that the interests of the labour movement are adequately represented in parliament and government,” they said.
In conclusion, the unions sought an audience with the all party caucus as a matter of urgency to share their concerns. Further, they threatened to undertake industrial action if relations between government and the labour movement continue to deteriorate.
The public service unions that are included in the petition are Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union, National Amalgamated Local and Central and Parastatal Workers’ Union, Botswana Secondary Teachers Union and Botswana Teachers Union.