The private sector is a part of the economy sometimes referred to as the citizen sector, which is run by private individuals or groups.
A private industry union would allow for a compensation for uneven bargaining power, between owners and workers, in the struggle over uneven distribution of profits and created wealth. Most of Batswana in the private sector are currently dissatisfied due to being overworked and underpaid, with salaries and wages remaining stagnant whilst prices for basic survival necessities such as petrol, food, water, electricity, land, housing and bank interest remain out of reach for them.
Now add to this recent media reports concerning allegations of financial misconduct by leaders and custodians of local corporations. This has prompted the writing of this article. Indeed these past few years have shown in our economy that this story is not at all a new one. We have had countless retrenchments and company closures that are at this time well known and too many to list.
Given these activities we find that in the end while this kind of mismanagement results in retrenchments of employees of these companies, who rely on them for their livelihood. In the meantime, those in positions of management are in no way held accountable.
It is difficult in this climate to be an employee in the private sector, given that there seems to be no protections for us. Not seemingly from a legal stand point or from even an ethical one. Employees are being affected by such events that have resulted in companies downsizing or even closing down. How this could possibly be a good prospect for the economy and employment one wonders. In any event, retrenchments mean reduced tax revenues and therefore less money to fund development needs; be they infrastructure, health care, education, technology, sports and arts and the like. In other words, less funds to build the nation or achieve vision 2036, or national development goals or the millennium development goals or income equality or even poverty eradication for that matter.
These retrenchments occur notwithstanding the lack of involvement by employees in the misconduct or mismanagement cited and notwithstanding demonstrated good professional conduct by employees with proven track records of client services and customer care that in some instances span decades even.
In past decades there were outcries about the lack of productivity in general by Batswana. In recent years employees have shown an improvement in productivity, in skills acquisition and experience gaining. In most instances we have seen more localisation of positions that were previously mainly filled by non Batswana.
Even though there may be some possible further improvement expected, however Batswana have shown themselves very open to learning, to development and to staying abreast of modern standards and innovative ideas in the workplace environment and in all interactions in the business arena.
It seems unfortunate that on the other hand our government and leaders of organisations seem to be more interested in destroying and nullifying gains and progresses made by employees instead of fostering and supporting them.
The solution to all matters of mismanagement is always how to reduce costs through reducing human capital.
This is the go to solution in Botswana and not much is ever said in protest to this scenario.
Employees are at the most expected to fend for themselves in finding new employment and are at the mercy of those in decision making positions where
One does wonder whether when making certain decisions those in power do consider other factors such as the impact of their decisions on the industry and economy of this country as well as all stakeholders involved including investors, shareholders and employees and more specifically on the possible future of a diversified economy.
One would have also expected that at the very least other oversight bodies exist in the country who in their capacity would be able to assess the validity of some decisions and their effect on the economy.
Yet there never seems to be any comment by organisations such as Business Botswana, NBFIRA, and even relevant ministries with regards to how employees are affected.
Maybe then one would think that maybe those in the political space would care enough but as usual neither the opposition parties or the ruling party have shown any commitment to people who are employees especially in the private sector. That is of course until Election Day.
Last year a Botswana based pioneer financial services firm that was based in Botswana and citizen owned, that had employed and contributed to local citizen development in asset management for more than 20 years and that had faithfully served local clients in this country had to retrench employees due to the level of decision making in leaders that we look up to and trust and people’s lives have been destroyed and ultimately this seems to be the trend for the local capital markets industry.
In most local industries most employees are abused and working conditions are not ideal and all this is under the pretext that one should only be thank full that they are employed and have a job.
Foreign business owners abuse their employees, local business owners are not faring much better.
In fact this is reminiscent of attitudes one can expect to find in apartheid or colonial regimes and yet lo and behold treatment of employees and workers today is just as bad as then if not worse.
Given this scenario, is it not high time that employees should have union representation?
This is especially so in non-bank financial services industries in the current climate we find ourselves in.
In truth productivity is a two-way street, productivity is expected from employees but on the reciprocal what do we expect as employees.
The professionals in this industry rely on it for their livelihoods. We have seen that decision makers are not interested in building or growing the industry or the professionals in it or having an impact on the economy by their seemingly lack of understanding of even basic matters related to the industry.
At the least we need a body for professionals that will ensure that these matters are put at the forefront, which will ensure that we make decisions and take actions that grow the industry, that create excellence and good ethical conduct and practice in professions and that we have a positive economic impact for today and for future generations.
We need such a private sector employees union. If we do not act now, it will only get worse and for our children it will be even too late to act.
*From Ndangariro Ellen Gwekerere aka Dali Lekgorwane
“Quia Quod Populus” “quia AGO CUM POPULO”