Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Unionising Botswana nurses faces hurdles

In spite of the tidal wave of unionization creeping through Botswana’s public service, Botswana’s nightingales still can’t find reason to unite and come up with an all- embracing structure to bargain on their behalf.

The Sunday Standard has learnt that the proceedings of the recent annual general meeting of the Nurses Association of Botswana (NAB) provided a case example of such differences. Apparently, during the annual meeting, there were compound differences which led to the inception of a Nurses Union being set in abeyance.

President of NAB, Keabitsa Ramantele, confirmed thus, “We have suspended the issue because we could not reach agreement. For the project to succeed, we needed at least one third of the nurses in agreement.”

Though Ramantele said that they required one third, she revealed that present hurdles include the fact that nurses are splattered all over different departments in government, thus most of them already belong to unions which represent employees of generalized categories under their respective employers.

For example, nurses working for Local government in council clinics are members of Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union (BLLAWU) whilst most who are employed by Central government belong to the Botswana Public Employers Union (BOPEU).
Ramantele further revealed that apparently most nurses who attended the meeting do not deem it prime to have a union, adding that even the majority of those at the meeting did not seem to appreciate the importance of a union by nurses.

Though she admitted that she does not know how long the formation of a nurses union will remain in abeyance, she averred that they were trying to make some of the nurses understand the importance of having a union.

She also revealed that they were recruiting young members into the association and are trying to mobilize them into buying into the idea of having a union.

Speaking at the 40th anniversary of NAB recently, Ramantele indicated that it was high time nurses consider NAB’s credibility and reconsider professional unity for the purpose of collective bargaining to benefit more from the system’s resources and enhance improved service delivery to clients.

Notwithstanding the NAB official’ statement, the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) denies any knowledge of any submissions made by the afore-mentioned to register a union.

“There is no record at the office of the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers Organisations of any request for the registration of a trade union of nurses.” Lebogang Bok, the Public Relations Practitioner of the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs revealed in an interview.

However, the former President of NAB, Joyce Tamocha, asserts that during her tenure as president of NAB, her office did make a request with MLHA to register a union.

Furthermore, she said that an official from the Ministry was assigned to address them in one of their meetings in Serowe, whereupon he advised them on the dealings of registration with the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers Organisations.

Efforts to reach the Registrar of the Nursing Council to establish the number of registered nurses proved futile as she was reportedly out of town.

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