Saturday, May 21, 2022

Strike suspension divides unions … as BOSETU convenes urgent meeting

At least two prominent leaders of the five public sector unions on Monday declined to comment on allegations that the suspension of the two-month long strike action has divided them.

The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO) leaders, Andrew Motsamai and Johnson Motshwarakgole, did not respond to the Telegraph’s enquiries on Monday.

BOSETU convened an urgent closed meeting on Monday to map the way forward, following the suspension of the 8-week old strike action by civil servants.

The meeting, convened at Boipuso Hall in Gaborone, was a sequel to an announcement by the leadership of the five public sector unions of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO) that the strike action by civil servants, which was degenerating into civil disobedience, be suspended.

This after last ditch efforts to reach a negotiated settlement between the unions and government, aided and abetted by members of the civil society, were disregarded by cabinet and frustrated by President Ian Khama in particular.

“We decided to call our shop stewards from Gaborone, Ramotswa, Mochudi, Molepolole, Lobatse and Borolong to cross pollinate ideas on the suspension of the strike and map the way forward,” the union’s publicity secretary, Mogomotsi Motshegwa, told the Telegraph on the sidelines of the meeting.

Motshegwa played down the cracks within BOFEPUSO.

“BOFEPUSO is a large family. Like every large family, there are differences of opinion. This should not suggest that people are divided. Yes there are teething problems but people should not write us off,” Motshegwa told the Telegraph.

The unionists said BOSETU is mindful that the education sector has been badly affected by the nationwide strike action in that students have lost time and are lagging behind in their syllabus.

The unionist fired a broadside at the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson, for announcing government interventions following the indefinite strike action without having consulted the leadership of BOSETU.  The Minister had not responded to the accusations levelled at her by the time of going to press.

“The government is going to implement the ‘no work no pay’ principle so the meeting will advise the BOSETU leadership how it can communicate with teachers. There are two weeks left before the end of schools term and student projects for practical subjects like Design and Technology and Art and Design have not been completed. Some school authorities might be tempted to ask our members to make up for lost time,” said Motshegwa.

The meeting was expected to address how best BOSETU will deal with the suspension of the strike and its implications on teachers. In addition, the spokesman said it was healthy anyway for BOSETU to make a self introspection as to how it faired during the strike.

“Students have been saying they want their teachers. We need to psychologically prepare our members for their encounter with students and school heads,” said Motshegwa.

The government has engaged temporary teachers at secondary schools to mitigate the impact of the strike on teaching and learning.

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