Mmegi Online :: Essential service workers join strike
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Last Updated
Monday 24 September 2018, 15:01 pm.
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Essential service workers join strike

Although the Industrial Court ruled against the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) on Friday in the current strike, essential service workers will be downing tools once again.
By Staff Writer Mon 24 Sep 2018, 20:20 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Essential service workers join strike








On Friday, the Industrial Court made the final judgement that essential service workers cannot go on strike.

During the first week of the strike, the court had made an interim order that workers in government departments, which are considered to be providing essential services, should go back to work.  This was after the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) had taken the unions to court about the striking essential services workers.

This was inspite of an earlier agreement that DPSM had made with BOFEPUSU that 30 percent of essential service workers should remain at work during the strike. This agreement means that DPSM felt that essential services workers could also embark on a strike.  

But then the employer somersaulted, insisting that essential service workers cannot go on strike. Immediately after the Industrial Court had made the interim order, the union ordered all its essential services members to return to work.   But now there is a new development following Friday's final judgement.  The essential services can still join the strike and in fact this is what the union has ordered once again.   This is because an Industrial Court judgment is set aside once one of the parties has made an appeal to the Court of Appeal. On Friday just after the judgement was delivered, union lawyers immediately registered their intention to appeal against the ruling.

During a rally that was held at the Gaborone Senior Secondary School grounds after the court ruling, union officials said essential service workers, including medical doctors, could down tools once again. Although the public service strike was supposed to last for 10 days, the union has decided to continue with the walkout this week.  Union officials said they would go on indefinitely, until they strike a deal with the employer.  

The strikers' spokesperson Goretetse Kekgonegile told The Monitor that they have reservations about the Industrial Court judgement. "We don't believe the judge made a wise decision.  The court is taking away the constitutional rights of workers to bargain for their labour.  Mind you, Botswana is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions," he said.

Kekgonegile said it was unfortunate that the judge said essential services employees could not strike.  "We believe the judge did not look at the

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labour laws holistically," he said, adding that the judge chose not to interpret relevant sections of the Labour Act. 

"We are appealing.  We have noted an appeal and until the appeal is heard, the judgement is set aside," he said.  He revealed that workers did not expect any positive response from the court. Kekgonegile asserted that the strike will go on indefinitely. "We will continue with the strike until we are offered something," he said.    The union leader said workers have been disillusioned by a statement that President Ian Khama made when he was addressing a Kgotla meeting on Friday. Khama told his audience that workers would not get a salary increase even if they went on strike for five years.   The unionist said essential service employees and other workers would be continuing with the strike today. 

On Friday, Kekgonegile was one of the union officials who addressed the workers at the GSS grounds following the Industrial Court ruling. Union leaders from Namibia also gave a message of solidarity at the highly attended rally.   A BOFEPUSU leader, Andrew Motsamai also gave the workers a word of inspiration.  He warned that if government takes action against any striking worker, they would turn the strike into a revolution. 

Union officials called on essential service workers to re-join the strike.  They said it would not be unlawful if they embarked on strike again because the Industrial Court ruling is set aside until the appeal is heard. Hundreds of workers had turned up at the Industrial Court.  Many others were bussed in from places as far away as Francistown, Mahalapye, Selebi-Phikwe and Kanye to attend the Friday court hearing.  After they left the Industrial Court, the workers who were clad in white attire, marched to the GSS grounds, singing and waving placards.  The marchers, including some government journalists who have joined the strike, brought traffic to a standstill. 

At the rally, the workers were as militant as ever and vowed to continue with the struggle.   Meanwhile, some schools have reportedly been hit hard by the strike that the government is contemplating closing schools.  A Maun teacher said schools have been turned into feedlots since there is no teaching because of the strike.

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