PALAPYE: Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has received a pat on the back for having achieved substantial growth this year.
Officially opening the elective congress, Andrew Motsamai said the membership of BOPEU has gone a little over 30,000, an unprecedented figure in the country. Motsamai said that this feat alone is worth celebrating.
“We have come a long way as a union. Our movement has a following of 30,430 members as at November 1, 2015. This ought not to be seen as self congratulatory overtures, but observations worth sharing,” said Motsamai.
He further revealed that back in 2007 when they began transformation into a trade union, their membership base stood at about 15,469. Hence, the union has grown by 97 percent since then.
In terms of gender balance, women constitute about 59 percent while men make up 41 percent of the union membership.
Additionally, young workers form the bulk of membership density at 63.2 percent.
The union president said the two constituencies of women and youth have always been on the back foot when it came to union activities.
“We should therefore pat ourselves on the back for providing an all-round attractive and conducive environment for our women and youth to join the organisation,” he said.
Motsamai said the obligation is on them as the union to harness the potential where women and young workers are now at the fore, well-positioned to champion workers’ rights.
He, however, said the new confidence in BOPEU requires nurturing.
In addition, BOPEU also managed to open three regional offices in Francistown, which became operational on August 1, 2011, Maun regional office, which first operated in October, 11, 2011 and Peba Sethantsho regional office, which is in the Kgalagadi region and started operating in 2014.
According to Motsamai, BOPEU remains committed to opening more offices
BOPEU currently employs a total number of 61 workers including Industrial relations officers, administration and college staff and those employed by the business arm of the union (Babereki Investment).
Justice Lot Moroka also commended BOPEU for its growth and challenged them to run a clean house.
He told the delegates that democracy in itself is not only an expensive undertaking, but a culture that needs to be cultivated and strongly inculcated amongst the masses.
He urged trade unions to unite to achieve economic prosperity and parity for the working class.
He said: “Trade unions should, as a matter of urgency rid themselves of the image of being salary negotiators, funeral covers and loan providers and create one of socio-economic partners for their members”.
Moroka further encouraged trade unions to emphasise financial education to steer members towards investing in their retirement.
“It is quite disheartening to observe that many employees are capacitated to plan for their retirement, save for the government provided pension fund, and many fall into post-retirement destitution. A successful trade union should be one that aims at eliminating the awful eventualities,” he said.
He commended BOPEU for establishing a bursary scheme that will facilitate upskilling and re-tooling of members. He said the initiative remains one important avenue of diminishing the numbers of the working poor.
The theme for the congress was ‘Consolidating unity of the working class, Trade Unions in the struggle for Democracy, Social Justice, Decent Jobs and Economic trajectory for all’.