Trade unions have laughed off an announcement by government that it has terminated the employment of all essential service employees who are still on strike.
The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) Publicity Secretary, Goretetse Kekgonegile, said it will be almost impossible for government to pay the severance benefits of all the fired employees. He also said it will be impossible to pay the over 3000 fired employees.
The national broadcaster, Btv, on Monday announced that government had decided to fire all striking essential service employees, and advised them to collect their dismissal letters within the next five days. Kekgonegile slammed government’s decision to announce the dismissal in the media without first consulting the concerned parties.
“This is the discourteous and unprofessional conduct that is typical of government,” he said.
He added that government’s decision will only work to aggravate the impasse and harden the employees’ resolve.
“All employees who are not on strike have resolved to rejoin the strike to support their counterparts. Government’s intimidating and divide-and-rule tactics will backfire. Employees know that their strength lies in their numbers,” he said.
Kekgonegile challenged government to propose an agreeable settlement or risk rendering Botswana ungovernable. He said BOFEPUSU will immediately challenge the legality of government’s decision.
The Industrial Court recently ruled that all essential service employees, regardless of their status, should return to work. But the employees defied the order and resolved to remain on strike. At the time, BOFEPUSU General Secretary, Andrew Motsamai, encouraged the employees to continue with the strike, and warned that the strike will escalate into a revolution if government takes action against the striking employees.
When arguing for the employees to return to work, the state attorneys said the public health services had collapsed as nurses and doctors have abandoned patients, while 27 clinics in the country had been shut down, and clinical waste was overflowing in state hospitals.
Meanwhile labour pundits have questioned the practicality of government’s decision, saying it will be impossible to replace the fired employees, especially doctors and nurses. Others have, however, said the move is part of government’s strategy to reduce the public service, and predicted that industrial class employees will in the end be left in the lurch while nurses and doctors will be re-hired.