The President of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), Japhta Radibe, this week urged Botswana Government to devolve the workers rights by creating an enabling environment that assists trade union organisation to flourish.
Speaking at the 2008 Labour Day commemorations, held under the theme ‘Fair trade and respect for workers’ rights: critical imperatives for decent work and decent life’, Radibe said the reason they choose this theme is because of globalization, which has continued to pose socio-economic and political challenges to the worker in the world.
Radibe highlighted that globalization through the integration of trade, investment, capital, technology and labour has only brought about social and economic injustice.
As workers today in Botswana, said Radibe, workers are actively led by a neo-liberal economic paradigm that cherishes liberalization, privatizations and restructuring, albeit in various forms.
“We are drowsed into believing trade and foreign direct investment at all costs without a human face is the answer to development,” he said.
According to Radibe, Labour Force analysis reports show a perennial and increasing rate of unemployment in Botswana since 1991 with the current 2005/06 showing that overall unemployment rate was 17.6 percent. When these figures are disaggregated, he said one of the worrying aspects of these trends is that the high prevalence of unemployment is actually among youth, who are supposed to be the productive drivers of the Botswana economy.
BFTU, therefore, urged the Government to fully recognize the trade union as stakeholders that must be part of the decision making process. He said workers should not be used as pawns in any socio-economic or political equation when, in fact, they are the key players of social and economic progress.
While the theme is interrogative, the Minister of Justice, Security and Defence, Ndelu Seretse, who was the guest speaker, said workers have a duty to work hard, productively, resourcefully, and in return they should receive fair remuneration as well as dignity.
While diamonds serve this country well, the Minister stated that it becomes clearer by the day that we need alternative sources of revenue to fund our development.
“Diversification within the mining industry and the growth of new engines of growth such as tourism and agriculture are, therefore, crucial as we move forward,” he said.
The Minister urged the Government and workers to openly promote and welcome investment by foreigners and nationals alike. He said foreign investment in particular is attracted to welcoming attitudes and arrangements in receiving countries.
Botswana has been surpassed by other countries in economic competitiveness. Many reasons given for this include bureaucracy, poor work ethics, skills shortages and corruption. The minister revealed that at the national leadership level, the President has made it his business to remove unnecessary bureaucracy.
“Education and skills development will benefit from a coherent approach under the superintendence of one authority. Corruption will be met with the full wrath of the law in addition to the necessary preventative measures such as education,” he noted.
The Minister said workers not only have a role to play by refusing to engage in corrupt activities, but also by exposing those who do. According to him, it is the work ethics issues which require the full might of workers.
“We can protest as much as we like, but when those engaged in business, domestic and foreign business say that we compare poorly with other nations, it is time to pay attention,” he noted.
Seretse explained that beyond making acquaintances, the essence of discussions has been the strengthening of relations and communication lines between Government and the labour movement as well as promoting dialogue in general.
He disclosed that the Ministry, the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and BOCCIM have agreed to re-examine existing structures of dialogue both in terms of composition and mandate. “While existing structures continue to serve us well, Government, workers and employers need a forum for effective consultation,” he said.
“A thousand mile journey starts with a single step, therefore, don’t get discouraged; instead just keep going,” he concluded.