What made Botswana to make the short list of countries that are regarded as gross transgressors of the ILO core Conventions?
Botswana Government is accused and charged for having violated two core convention being, Conventions 87 and 98 and having acted contrary to the ILO frame work definition of essential service as they, the ILO have advised through the Committee of Application of Standards (CAS). Convention 87, provides as thus; “Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize while Convention 98, provides as thus; “The Right to a Organize and Collective Bargaining”
Where it started
These gross violations started when the government of Botswana in 2012, reacting to the consequences of the 2011 industrial action decided to angrily amend the essential service schedule that was part of the then Trade Dispute act to include among others the teaching service, veterinary services, air traffic controllers information and broadcasting etc, in actual fact, about 80% of the workers in Botswana, into the essential service bracket.
At this first go the minister, Batshu, on his own successfully amended the schedule.
This first attempt was foiled by BOFEPUSU when they took government to court on the basis that they, Bofepusu, were not consulted and also that the Minister does not have the powers to amend a schedule. Bofepusu won the case and the amendment of the schedule was reversed.
The second attempt was in 2013 when government then took the proposed amendments (same) to the Labour Advisory Board in an attempt the defect upon which the court upheld the Bofepusu case.
Bofepusu still complained vigorously for not being consulted as at that time, they did not sit on the LAB.
Due pressure mounted by BOFEPUSU by addressing the parliamentary caucuses of different political parties’ MPs and their labour committees, the bill was removed from the floor of parliament for further consultations.
The third time around was in 2014. This was after consulting the LAB once more to the exclusion Bofepusu.
This time around government was hell bent to move on in spite of complaints and queries from Bofepusu.
They pushed the bill in parliament and and it was passed as a law during the 2016 July session of parliament. The President accented to it and it came into effect November 2017.
The Role Played by BOFEPUSU in Reporting Government to the ILO
Bofepusu on 25th July 2016 lodged a complain to the ILO through the Freedom of Association Branch Chief, Karen Curtis as laid down in the introductory letter attached.
A detailed report about the state of the violations was as well attached. The detailed report is as well attached. The core of the complaint was
And also the proposed amendments of the BEC Act that would result in teachers being forced to participate in forced labour by carrying out work for different employer who is a juristic person on her own.
Bofepusu unions on their own individual capacity then made reports to different international labour groupings that they belong to.
Such as Public Service International and Education International. The organs assisted in pushing the case of Botswana so that she appears in the long list.
Botswana included in the long list
Due pressure mounted by the various international organs; PSI, EI, BOFEPUSU and of course the Bftu, Botswana was able to make it to the long list for the first time in the history of the country.
Upon further lobbying by bofepusu and all other international labour organs, Botswana was able to make the list of the top aggressors and violators of the core ILO, that is Botswana made it to the short list of 24 countries.
On 13th June 2017, Botswana government appeared before the Committee of Application of Standards (CAS) to answer for the trnsgressions.
The Minister of Employment and Labour Productivity Mr. Tshenolo Mabeo represented government during the session. Present also was the Minister of Presidential Affairs Mr. Eric Molale.
BOFEPUSO’s view on this Predicament
In our view, this is embarrassing and denting to say the least.
There is no doubt that this taints the image of Botswana and lands a heavy blow to the democratic credentials of the country that has always been regarded as a shining example of democracy.
This goes a long way to confirm our long held views that this country’s democracy is weaning by each day that passes.
This situation could have been avoided had the powers that be had listened to bofepusu.
The government of Botswana glaringly walked into a crisis that bofepusu had fore warned them about.
This shows that this is a country that is immune to advices, anti workers and does not care about international laws even those that they have ratified.
*The writer is BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari