Employees of Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) have engaged a protected strike or Industrial actions in furtherance of their discontent with the employer.
There are various fundamental reasons the world- over why workers go on strike in any country and in any modernised organisations and one such reason is as outlined below:
The country’s economic growth may stimulate high demands on the part of the workers, coupled with efficient performance of the workforce and an increase in revenue. In such a situation, workers may agitate for a stake in political economy and thereby call for a high increase in wage, as is the case at BURS and any failure by the employer to meet employees’ demand may lead to this ongoing type of Industrial action regarded as Economic Strike.
The government of Botswana has ratified International Labor Organisation (I.L.O) conventions and thereby adopts the best practices else-where, the workforce which forms part of the society has thus became organised and developed. Such changes have transformed the mindset of workers and enabled them to realise their rights, which amongst others include; the right to bargain collectively, the right to strike, the right of protection against exploitation and the right to organise.
Generally, a strike is a clear indication or conformation of existence of conflict or disputes in the organisation, conflict is a reality in all relationships, what matters most is how employers and unions alike respond to the existence of conflict at the workplace and how the conflict is being managed. I am really humbled by the decision that has been taken by fellow comrades in struggle to engage in industrial action despite the No work, No pay rule, under the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act which gives the employer absolute right not to remunerate the striking workers. I must also applaud our judiciary for allowing the workers, as they wished, to engage in an economic strike with such consequences for their actions and the employer, in fact a strike which is a protected one is beyond the jurisdiction of Industrial Court and/or any court in the land.
The right to strike
The right to strike is an important aspect of the right to collective bargaining; such right to strike is internationally recognised and as a result must be enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana. The essence of collective bargaining is to regulate the terms and conditions of service which ordinarily give employees reasonable legitimate expectations that their terms and conditions of employment will be improved and as a result enjoy decent work life.
The act obliges a trade union that has been granted recognition to also bargain in good faith with the employer in respect of all matters that are subject to collective bargaining and to avoid by all cost to employ foul play and make good concessions. Good negotiation include linking of demands during to tradeoffs to concessionary offers made by the employer, demands may be conceded by the unions in return for gains in areas
To avoid further destructions I appeal to my fellow comrades and their union representatives to introspect and engage the employer in negotiations in good faith and persuade BURS management to concede to moratoriums on increase of wages by 11% split over a period of two (2) years and also to concede to moratorium to engage the union in the review of the organisational structure. Such concessionary will ensure job security of employees of BURS. It is imperative to improve the working conditions of employees gradually and not through a revolutionary process like Karl Marx contended, negotiations is not all about an increase in wages, it also encompass advocating for change in employment policies such as; health and safety, recruitment, transfer, appointment, promotion and training policies.
Organising and Unionising
At the end of the contemplated industrial action, employees of BURS must introspect and take stock of themselves and the unions currently representing them. There is an urgent need for BURS employees who are governed by the Employment Act and Staff Handbook and not by the Public Service Act and the general orders; to organise and form a Union that will defend their collective interests and act collectively in matters of interest and aspirations and ensure they are sufficiently represented at the workplace(shop floor). The ability to organise is important for representatives of workers at joint decision making forums, as it strengthens their bargaining power at the sectorial bargaining unit. Unity of workers also protects them from exploitation, self-destruction, fragmentation and vulnerability of isolation is as the case during the ongoing industrial action.
Overview of BURS strike action
My view is that a rise in wages generally translates into increase in taxes. BURS is not a profit making organisation and is without doubt, a state owned enterprise and workers are themselves consumers of the service that they provide(collection of Taxes) on behalf of government, which in return is used to increase their salaries and that of politician and public employees. As tax payers, BURS employees and public employees who are all members of BOPEU will have to bear the consequences of their union’s action as they are directly affected by the costs of such services (tax increase). Further to that, both the union and the employer financial muscle will be adversely affected by industrial action.
Message of solidarity
When you are in the middle of suffering, it is comforting to know that it won’t last forever. God is with you comrades in your struggle.
PS: These are personal views and comments of the author and are not of any union, federation or institution of which he may be a member of good standing.
*Patle is an evolutionary unionist based in Gaborone City. E-mail: email@example.com or call 75095263