Monday, January 18, 2021

Richard Boitshwarelo surveys ‘Basic Labour Relations’

The most voluminous and scholarly work on the labour movement in Botswana might be the volume exhibited at May Day several years ago by the leadership of the Manual Workers Movement. Dr Monageng Mogalakwe has contributed his part as has Alan Briscoe. Below, RAMPHOLO MOLEFHE discusses RICHARD BOITSWARELO’s survey of “Basic Labour Relations in Botswana”

Boitshwarelo, a history teacher for 20 years and one of the craftsmen of the Public Service Act, makes no pretensions that his account of labour relations in Botswana fulfils all the requirements of an academic work.

Rather, it is a compilation ÔÇô more a summary ÔÇô of the many papers he presented to gatherings of trade unionists during his tenure as secretary general of the teachers union which now goes by the name BOSETU.

In 79 pages, Boitshwarelo covers subjects ranging from the making of contracts of employment, disciplinary procedures, grievance procedures, freedom of association and the right to organise and collective bargaining.

The trade unions are informed about the role of shop steward in the organisation of employees on the shop floor.

There is also some discussion of industrial action, provisions of the Employment Act and some industrial court judgments.

Reference is also made to International Labour Organisation conventions. The first time employee or member of the trade union will benefit greatly from the synopsis of the Employment Act that spells out the rules on the negotiation of a contract and how it may be breached by the employer or the employee.

Experienced workers will benefit from the explanation on what constitutes a ‘fair’ disciplinary hearing, including the notion of ‘natural justice’ which requires that the parties in conflict must be prepared to hear the other side or ‘audi alteram partem’. It should also be understood that no one may be the judge in his own cause, a principle expressed in Latin as ‘nemo judex in causa sua’.
Boitshwarelo informs the reader that the rules on establishment of a disciplinary enquiry are spelt out in the Industrial Court ruling in the matter between Michael Phirinyane and Spies Batignolles in 1994.

Especially significant for prospective members of the trade union is the legal assurance that employees may not be fired for:

ÔÇó The employee’s membership of a registered trade union
ÔÇó Seeking office in a registered trade union
ÔÇó Complaining about working conditions
ÔÇó His tribe, marital status, political opinions, sex, colour or creed.

In these tough economic times, workers will want to know that “when an employer terminates contracts of employment for the purpose of reducing the size of his workforce, he shall do so in respect of each category of employee, whenever reasonably practicable, in accordance with the principle commonly as first-in-last-out”.

Further, the worker is informed about the existence of the Code of Good Practice which requires that “All employees have a right to query the application of agreed terms and conditions of employment”.

Boitshwarelo’s booklet informs workers about the role of trade unions in labour relations and the process of collective bargaining.

Employers and employees are warned that the Employment Act says that “Where a contract of employment…provides for conditions of employment less favourable to the employee than conditions prescribed by its act, the contract shall be null and void…”

The concluding chapters make reference to court judgments, among them Sekwakwa v Air Botswana, regarding suspension without pay. It refers to Antonia Tshwaedi and others v Bolux Milling with regard to summary dismissal. The chapter makes informative reference to 22 judgments on various aspects of labour relations.

Finally, chapter 13 informs the reader about conventions of the International Labour Organisation.

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