Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) executive secretary Austin Muneku has lamented poor unionisation of the working class in Botswana as it hinders consolidation of the working class for common and collective action to advance and defend the rights of workers.
Muneku was giving a solidarity message at Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) 13th Triennial Delegates Congress in Francistown last week.
He said that Botswana as compared to other countries in Southern Africa is relatively low when it comes to unionization.
“We still have thousands of workers that remain unorganized especially in the private sector. What this means is that thousands of our brothers and sisters are denied social justice because they have no voice. The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs which has been playing a vital role to protect the unorganised is increasingly becoming overstretched and overwhelmed,” he said.
He said the Ministry is not a substitute for the unions as such it is incumbent for BFTU as a federation to pay attention to extend representation to the unorganized workers to consolidate working class power and achieve equity and social justice for all workers in the country. Muneku encouraged BFTU to initiate deliberate action to encourage trade union unity.
“We may borrow a leaf from Swaziland where recently the two federations and independent teachers unions came together to form one unified federation, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA),” he said.
On the theme of the congress, “Employment Creation, The Key to Economic Recovery and Poverty Eradication,” Muneku said that the theme is truly justified given the twin challenges of unemployment and poverty facing most Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries and Africa in general, particularly the youth.
He said SADC has a very young population compared to other regions in Africa and globally with an estimated 76.4 percent of the SADC population being under 35 years of age.
“This is a real challenge that any responsible region and governments cannot afford to ignore except at their own peril. We need not recount the events surrounding the Arab spring that engulfed some North African countries for us to realize that these challenges needs urgent attention and immediate remedies from all stakeholders.
It is not the duty of government alone to find solutions and remedies to challenges facing us as nations and a region, trade unions have an important role to play as well,” Muneku said.
He said that as unions, their motivation around employment creation is informed not by what most circles call selfishness of the working class, rather by the centrality of employment in any political economy. He added that employment creation often triggers certain attributes important for the recovery and growth of any economy.
“First, jobs translate into incomes for the population lifting them from poverty, the ensuing demand for goods and services then spurs investments that in turn create more jobs as well as a wider tax base for government revenues to expand social investment,” he said.
He said employment creation is the only sustainable way to effectively eradicate poverty by availing opportunities for people to work themselves out of poverty rather than through handouts.
He further said that such kind of an approach has equally reducing the endemic inequalities so prevalent in the SADC region and Africa due to the redistributive effects of employment creation.
“It is for this reason that trade unions need to be involved in initiatives for employment creation especially on the formulation, implementation and monitoring of active employment and labor market policies,” he said.
Muneku said that at regional level two developments have already taken place that must add impetus to their motivation for employment creation and poverty eradication. He said that SADC in 2010 adopted a Decent Framework Programme through which all member states prioritize employment creation.
Secondly, he said in 2013 SADC ministers of Labour and Employment and Social Partners endorsed the draft SADC Employment and Labour Protocol which presents numerous avenues to pursue with their governments including employment creation.
The Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) represents 19 federations in 13 SADC states and has a combined membership of about seven million working men and women.
As a regional trade union umbrella, SATUCC aims to unite the working class, the poor, the voiceless against exploitation, injustice and oppression through providing a dynamic inclusive and sustainable platform to influence regional policy in favor of the working populations and the poor.