Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) said on Tuesday evening that ILO has grouped Botswana with Iran, North Korea, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and others as the top violators workers' rights. According to BOFEPUSU, the recent ILO conference sampled the level of compliance by the 150 member states, and found top 10 violators. The union leaders said Botswana has transgressed from a shining example of democracy to be ranked among the worst countries in the world.
Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Tobokani Rari, Samuel Kedise, Samuel Molaodi, Johnson Motshwarakgole, Othusitse Tsalaile, were updating the media on their participation at the ILO conference in Geneva, Switzerland recently. BOFEPUSU is not recognised as representative labour committee at ILO.
But it managed to make presentations to ILO on the situation in Botswana through its affiliation to Public Service International (PSI). Among the issues that were reported to the conference were government's recent decisions that made it difficult for workers unions to operate in the country.
They said that Botswana has ratified and signed the ILO Conventions hence it is not up to any individual in government to decide which one to comply with.
The top five issues were:
*Government's refusal to comply with Convention 58 to allow prison officers to unionise on grounds that they work for a security organ. BOFEPUSU argues that prison is not a security organ, hence warders should enjoy the right to unionise.
*De-registration of BOFEPUSU by the government
*The scope of essential services being expanded to include Teaching and Veterinary Services (DVS) and any person employed in an essential services sector even if his or her job does not threaten any loss of life.
*Withdrawal of organisational rights, such as collection points for monthly subscriptions by the 93,000 members of BOFEPUSU
*Lack of independence for Dispute Resolution mechanism in the country. BOFEPUSU argues that the mediation process is presided over by a government department, hence the independence of the adjudicating officers is not guaranteed because of conflict of interest.
The union says that even the judiciary is no longer independent, as evidenced by recent rulings that it feels favoured government. BOFEPUSU leaders expressed surprise that the government sent a 10-man delegation and one representative from Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) to the ILO conference. They said BFTU does not have many members. The government did not sponsor a single representative from BOFEPUSU. Kedise said that Education International has also questioned Botswana's motives behind inclusion of teaching as an essential service saying they suspect the only reason is to deny them the right to collective bargaining. They said that President Ian Khama has declared a war on unions in his endless presidential directives that are made unilaterally without the input of the Bargaining Council, which is recognised by the Public Service Act, Trade Disputes Act and the ILO Conventions.
They added that their calls for the amendment of Section 35 of the Prisons Act, which is in contradiction to the ILO Convention, has fallen on deaf ears. Meanwhile BOFEPUSU is working with other trade unions outside the public service to come together to form one union recognised by the ILO.
"We are in the process of bringing all sectors together, as well as reviewing our constitution to accommodate that.
We are at an advanced stage, since the membership of Manual Workers Union includes workers from more than 15 parastatals in the country," Motshwarakgole said.