Saturday, August 13, 2022

Rebuttal of article entitled “BOGOWU and TAWU against nationwide strike”

Please publish this rebuttal on the article entitled “BOGOWU and TAWU against nationwide strike”, which appeared in your Sunday Edition, by Kagiso Madibana.

The article is misleading in that it suggests that TAWU and BOGOWU have a negative interest in the planned ‘nationwide strike’ or that we oppose the strike. It appears to be the writer or Editor’s distorted conclusion of a statement submitted to the newspaper by BOGOWU Secretary General, Mr Kaboda Phillip, which the paper decided not to publish.

There is a glaring incoherence between the headline and the content of Mr Phillip’s quotation, which refers to impending negotiations. Nowhere does the writer quote or refer to a statement by any union official who expressed the view carried by the headline. This is a case of a journalist becoming the story-teller. Why not let the subject tell his own story?

The essence of our statement was that TAWU and BOGOWU are not party to a planned strike by some unions. Unfortunately the journalist could not see the important difference between being opposed to the strike and not being party to the strike. We sought to make this clarification because members of these unions were mischievously peddling lies that we are against employees’ salaries being increased, with the aim of driving a wedge between our members and leadership and to try to vilify us in the minds of the public.

How can we be pressurising DPSM for negotiations to the point of registering a dispute, when we are opposed to higher salaries? For what reason would we be fighting for bargaining rights and an inclusive bargaining council if we do not want our members to get better pay? For what purpose do we exist then? The insinuation is simply nonsensical and should be dismissed.

We are described in the article as being ‘hushed’ when others, who have the support of opposition parties, are rebelling against President Ian Khama. It seems that to the writer, we have an obligation to ‘rebel’ or to gain the support of opposition parties or to join the strike. Otherwise we are traitors, it seems.

This is the typical stereotype of unions in the minds of many: rebel, opposition, strike. Such stereotype is nurtured by populist unionists, who fit into its mould. This naive view of unions by some journalists is also a result of their ignorance of labour relations and trade unionism. They are one group of workers that remains un-unionised and exploited, yet who cannot write about their own exploitation and bad working conditions but always prefer to cheer others’ struggles. The writer could have been looking for this typical unionist: an anti-Khama rebel, opposition activist, about to go on strike. In other words, as the journalist awaits the action from the planned strike, this may well be his expression of disappointment that TAWU and BOGOWU do not fit his typecast.

We will not allow such stereotypes to dictate our course of action. Neither will we be pressured to be part of a strike whose decision we did not take part in. It is just none of our business. Our focus is currently on negotiations. We will start thinking about strike action when negotiations are about to fail. We believe there have not been effective negotiations because the employer never brought a mandate to the table. It is amateurish and adventurist to pre-empt the outcome of negotiations, if indeed you negotiate in good faith.

Employees should also know that even during a lawful strike, the employer records, daily, the number and names of employees who turned out or failed to turn up for work, for later deduction from their wages/salaries equivalent to their individual daily earnings (no-work-no-pay). This is why employees should make a conscious decision to go on strike. The decision should be made personally, freely, in a sober environment, by members themselves, advisably by secret ballot in their respective unions, because it is them who bear the consequence. It is a serious matter, being the union’s most powerful weapon. Union leaders, who are usually seconded or employed by the unions, are personally unaffected by the strike, though they lead it.

In the case of unlawful strike, employees face the possibility of dismissal and loss of benefits such as pensions. Sometimes group excitement turns into individual regret. Picketing may accompany the strike, which is another issue that employees should know about and how it is conducted.

Sometimes there is legal action to be taken, which the union usually pays for on behalf of its members. The question of wage adjustments being extended to all employees is a matter for collective agreements and the organisation’s HR policy. An employee on strike who is not part of the union which is on lawful strike faces dismissal. Who covers the legal bills and who takes the responsibility over the actions of TAWU and BOGOWU members who join a BOFEPUSU strike? Does BOFEPUSU have capacity to declare deadlock? Is it a bargaining agent with recognition from DPSM? It has happened before that many union members join strikes without this information. Instead of sensational headlines, the media could play an educational role.

Therefore it will be foolhardy for members of TAWU and BOGOWU to be party to a strike they have not formulated, but in which they have no protection and would personally pay the price. If they prefer to go on strike they could resolve in their own structures to strike and if it is to be lawful, they must have a dispute of interest, which means they must first go through negotiations and reach deadlock, as we are currently doing. Hence it is premature to say anything about strike concerning TAWU and BOGOWU, for now, unless it is said in bad faith.

It is ridiculous to join a strike by BOFEPUSU, unless you have the right to do so. Ka Setswana, ga o na tshwanelo ya go lela ko lesong la batho, le fa ele masika, fa ba sa bone botlhokwa jwa go go begela loso lwa bone. Gape ga o na molato fa o sa lele mo lesong la teng. O ?wa ntshu o ogola eng?
This is what we had sought to clarify. We hope this rebuttal puts the matter to rest.

EDWARD TSWAIPE
FOR: TAWU AND BOGOWU

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