We previously met the Vice President, Minister of Employment and Minister of Public Service about arbitrary amendments of labour laws without consultating Trade Unions/workers.
The Public Service Act (PSA) was gazetted without our knowledge and we hear the Employment Act and Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act will follow suit against the assurance granted to us.
These amendments were done after the efforts by the technical team of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to assist in aligning the Botswana labour laws to international standards. We say laws need to be just, sustainable, bring industrial harmony and stability.
Amendment Of Public Service Act As Per The Gazetted Bill
Amendments of labour laws have reduced the doctrine of collective bargaining to collective begging. At the heart of all this haste in amending the labour laws is a nefarious agenda to commodify workers in Botswana.
Section 16 of the Bill empowers the President to interfere with administration of the Public Service. This is a very undesirous state of affairs. We want a situation where conditions of service and terms of employment are negotiated by the unions at Bargaining structures and not directives from the President which hinges on authoritarianism.
Section 31 (2) (a)-(c) of the Bill seek to undermine the duties of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) by giving the Minister the power to decree 10% overtime allowance as has been bandied in the past by the employer. This is a pure form of slavery wages meant to treat workers as commodities.
Section 61 of the Bill usurped the power of the Bargaining Council to settle disputes or grievances of whatever form. Section 43 of the current Public Service Act bestows the power of the PSBC albeit sharing it with the Public Service Commission. We would like to have an international best practice of settlement of disputes.
Disputes between employees and the employer are disputes that can be settled amicably by the Bargaining Council or Sectoral Councils.
Section 72 and 74(4) of the Bill give power to the Directorate of Public Service Management and the Minister to appoint the Secretariat, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of PSBC respectively. Currently the Constitution of P.S.B.C confers that power to the Council itself.
Section 75 of the Bill gives the employer the power to unilaterally vary conditions of service and terms of service without input of PSBC or even workers.
Section 78 of the Bill puts a condition to
Such conduct is contrary to the Article 3 of the Convention 87 of the ILO which restricts Governments from enacting laws which prescribe who should be elected by employees to lead the Unions. Trade Unions should be free to conduct their affairs without Governmental interference.
Section 50 (1) © and 50 (2) (a) (c) of the Bill ban political expressions in the public service. But the section is silent on what politics or a matter of political nature means. In terms of ILO, employees enjoy civil liberties and political expression. At the heart of industrial democracy is the voice of workers on government economic and social policies.
Paragraph 499 of the Digest of decisions and principles of Freedom of Association Committee of the ILO of 2006 (5th revised edition) provides thus; “that government should not attempt to transform the Trade Union movement into an instrument for the pursuance of political aims, nor should they attempt to interfere with the normal functions of a Trade Union movement because of its freely established relationship with a political party.
It further says “provisions imposing on political activities by Trade Unions for the promotion of their specific objectives are contrary to the principles of Freedom of association.
Amendment Of Trade Unions And Employers Organisations Act
Government has formally indicated the intention to amend the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act which seeks to interfere with and micro manage Trade Unions. This effect of this will be government prescribing who should lead Trade Unions.
Formal Process Of Consultarion
It is truism that social dialogue does not supplement but complements classical parliamentary democracy. Allowing participation of tripartite partners in policy formulation and decision making process regarding social and economic policy is important.
This is not the case in Botswana where the consultation platform is not effective and cooperative. Ministers just don’t have regard of the input of Trade Unions, and hence they Minsters unilaterally amend Labours laws. In instances where matters were taken to the Labour Advisory Board, such matters would have been predetermined by the Minister, who would then engage employee just for formality to make it look as if there was consultation.
Ketlhalefile M. N Motshegwa
Public Service International (NCC Chairperson)