A move to declare the “entire public service” as ‘essential services’ as suggested by the opposition Members of Parliament is designed to protect the country’s economy, the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu has said.
Despite resistance from both trade unions and opposition members of parliament, on Thursday Batshu stood to his guns insisting in parliament that Government will not dig its head in the sand to allow the country’s economy collapse to its knees under their watch.
The controversial Trade Disputes Bill is currently at Committee stage, just a final moment before the numerically strong ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament could pass it into a law.
In operation the Trade Disputes Act will see the teaching services, state broadcasting services, veterinary services in the public service, diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, operational and maintenance services of the railways among others declared essential services.
“History will judge us negatively. We are protecting the country’s economy for the sake of the future generation,” Minister Batshu argued, parrying suggestions by Francistown legislature Wynter Mmolotsi to scrap some of the public cadre from the list of essential services.
“By introducing this Act the Government will have deprived the public service of their bargaining power. The Government will be calling all the shots at the expense of the public service… which is wrong,” the Francistown South legislator argued, insisting the import of the strike is meant to “shake the country’s economy.”
With the economy of the country protected under the Act, Mmolotsi argued the public service was vulnerable and under siege at the mercy of the Government as the employer.
Other opposition legislatures who commented on the debate said they deem the move to incorporate the “entire public service” as essential services to be a way of clamping them.
In operation the Act will also see services necessary to the operation of any of the teaching services, state broadcasting services, veterinary services in public services, diamond sorting, cutting and selling services among others including receptionists, garden- boys, herd boys in veterinary services and security guards barred from participating in the strike.
Such a move simply because the minor services although important have been declared essential services.
Under the envisaged Act Botswana will be breaking ranks with world renowned international standards albeit a signatory to the International Labour Organisation.
Medical services, security agents such the police and military are considered essential services under the ILO standards endangering life, health and life should they engage in a strike withdrawing their services.
Among other cadres considered essential services include the air traffic control services, Botswana vaccine laboratory services, Bank of Botswana, electricity services, fire services, sewerage services, water services and immigration and customs services.