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Botswana Advised To Back Down On New Public Service Bill

MONKAGEDI GAOTHOBOGWE
The Public Service International (PSI) has advised Botswana to abandon its intended amendments of the Public Service Act that seeks to make all government services essential services.

The Monitor is in possession of  a letter from the PSI, the international trade  union federation representing public sector workers in 153 countrties, with more than 20 million members around the world.

In their letter addressed to Botswana President Ian Khama, the PSI noted that  government of Botswana had signed the new Trade  and Dispute Act, to replace the Trade and Disputes Act of 2003.

The PSI said they are very concerned that Section 46 of the  new Act declares that all public services are essential services. “These for instance include diamond sorting, veterinary services and government broadcasting services, among others.; section 47 further extends it to supporting staff which includes receptionists, gardeners’ assistants and security guards.”

PSI also noted that as a result, under this new Act, Botswana will no longer be in comformity with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, ratified by Botswana. “Under ILO standards essential services are only those the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population,” the letter said, advising that as a member of the ILO  governing body, Botswana is expected  to selfishly and jealously guard against attacks on all forms of democratic values and practices, espoused by ILO.

The letter by PSI also warns

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Botswana that these changes adopted without consultation with trade unions as mandated representative organisations of public workers, “will certainly affect the social peace in Botswana and far  from achieving the desired results-strengthening of the dispute resolution process-will create troubles where previously were none”

The PSI also noted that they have  been informed that  the Public Services Act No.30 of 2008, previously seen to be fairly in favour of a stable working environment is also being  re-aligned to take account of the new Trade  andDisputes Act. “For instance in the new Public Service Bill of 2016 the definition of ‘senior management’ is widened to the more general term, ‘management’. This will remove the right  to strike for most  employees in supervisory positions-regardless of the level; more over support staff have been excluded from enjoying the right to freedom of association and benefiting from  the collective bargaining processes,” the letter reads.

The international organisation also opposes  government’s move to have the secretariat of the Public Service Bargaining  Council now appointed by the Permanent Secretary to the President, and no longer  by the Council itself. They also oppose the move to house the Secretariat in the  Directorate  of Public Service Management, as a government department that is no longer independent.



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