The president of Botswana Hotel Catering Travelling and Tourism Workers Union (BHCTTWU), Phologo Ntswetswe says their members are on the frontline to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) as they provide hospitality to hundreds on quarantine.
Ntswetswe said while on the frontline, their members’ safety and protection is not guaranteed.
He added they were concerned by the exclusion of the union in the fight against COVID-19 by employers and related stakeholders in the tourism sector.
He also stated that social dialogue was regrettably lacking.
Ntswetswe explained that there had been exclusive and secret meetings held by the ministries of Health and Wellness, Labour and Employment, Botswana Tourism Organisation, Hotel and Tourism Association of Botswana and Business Botswana to the exclusion of workers and their union.
“This means that the voice of workers is sidelined in the tourism sector in dealing with COVID-19.
We express our disdain to these secret meetings, which have not assisted the tourism industry, but pose a devastating negative impact on the country’s economy,” he said. “What is disheartening is that some hotels, lodges and tour operators are now taking advantage of the situation to un-procedurally retrench workers and even alter their employment conditions without following proper legal procedures, submitted by the Federation to government with regard to economic measures of protecting workers.”
Ntswetswe also pointed out that the hotel and tourism industry is the second largest sector that contributes to the gross domestic product after the diamond-led mining industry and therefore employs around 30,000 employees who are currently facing a bleak
He added that the tourism and hospitality sector faced 35% to 50% contraction in 2020 due to the virus.
He stated that the union held a meeting where it raised its concern over the job security of workers’ health and wellness in relation to personal protective equipment, education and information on safety and health in relation to the virus, employee exposure to the virus and the quarantining of exposed employees to protect them and their families, and the possible intervention measures by government. He, however, stated that the meeting did not bear any fruit because the office of the commissioner was powerless to drive towards a solution to the predicament at hand.
Furthermore, he explained that the union through its mother-body, Botswana Federation of Public Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) requested an urgent meeting with tourism sector stakeholders and relevant ministries to put in place measures of protecting employees in the tourism sector during the pandemic.
He added that both unions would continue to monitor the situation, saying that if the welfare of workers were not improved, they would mobilise their members through BOFEPUSU to withdraw their labour to protect them from the pandemic and abuse by the employer.