FRANCISTOWN: On various occasions, leading local trade union leaders have been urged to consider dialogue and a soft approach when negotiating for their welfare with government, who is their employer.
The government has also often been advised to shy away from a hard-line strategy when dealing with trade unions. Such differences between the government and trade unions have often ended up being resolved in court. Many observers have also in the past opined that some differences end in court as a result of lack of desire by both parties (government and unions) to reach a consensus when they negotiate.
However, High Court Judge Key Dingake does not subscribe to the popular thinking that trade unions should soften up against government. He warned that such a move by trade unions will be suicidal.
Dingake made his view known here on Friday when officiating at the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government. Parastatal and Manual Workers’ Union (NALCGPMWU) otherwise also known as Botswana Manual Workers Union elective meet.
“If you soften your approach when dealing with the employer, chances are that your concerns will not be urgently dealt with. Government will take you lightly when you do not apply a militant approach during talks.
“If you give the employer sleepless nights she will always make sure that your concerns are addressed urgently. If you are not soft, the employer will always come running when you have concerns that need to be dealt with,” said Dingake in his address. Dingake also acknowledged that trade unions have experienced tremendous growth over the years and in the process transformed into active role players in the country’s economy and in other areas affecting their
However, despite such telling growth, he highlighted that unions are still lagging behind in terms of advocating for improvement of other key economic areas particularly health, education and unemployment.
“The country’s health system is in shambles. Those who want better health have to go to private hospitals, but they are not affordable to the masses who include the majority of your members. The same applies to education. You have to start strongly advocating for access to affordable better education and health by your members and all Batswana,” he said.
Dingake added that trade unions should also advocate for the unemployed. “I would like to see you coming up with ideas that can help address unemployment in the country as well as supporting advocacy by the unemployed.
The growing levels of unemployment should be a worry to all Batswana including trade unions,” he said.
Dingake also joined growing calls that trade unions should strongly lobby the government to introduce a living wage instead of the minimum wage. Middle of this year, the Botswana Congress Party president, Dumelang Saleshando urged trade unions to up their fight against the minimum wage policy. He was speaking at the BOPEU congress also here.
Those who oppose the minimum wage policy believe that it has resulted in greater exploitation of workers as some employers use it as a justification for offering their employees low salaries that do not tally with their ever growing daily life expenses.