I have always waited with baited breath on when BOFEPUSO will eventually announce what I had always thought was coming.
During the infamous industrial strike of 2011 some of us were not so blind to see the brewing of a betrayal in the major union that ultimately saw some of the key union members leaving their jobs to stand for political offices having used the industrial strike as a launching pad for their selfish desires.
This pursuit done in self aggrandisement by very few union leaders will forever continually divide members whom by nature are workers who obviously vote different parties of their own choice. It is however not surprising that they just announced their support for certain political parties, the signs of this adulterous relationship have been clear even to a cheated blind man. I could say that my worst fears and doubts have just come to pass but I somehow almost got hoodwinked into believing their innocence at their continual denial of this truth. They only waited for an opportune time.
It has always been clear that this conglomerate had long conceived this illegitimate baby despite its denial of sleeping with opposition parties while accusing the government of negotiating in bad faith then. A good number of speakers who frequented the assemblies of workers countrywide during the last national strike were opposition politicians who mistakenly thought and believed that their audience (us) was a homogeneous lot that could be turned into a political party or voter-ship.
I believe it would have been kind enough for the union leaders who have been given the mandate by workers and the constitution to come back to them and seek opinion on matters of politicising the union. Presently the union continues to play with its bedfellows without the general members’ consent. Those who believe that the conglomerate is the messiah should open their eyes beyond the current elections.
Motshwarakgole has unapologetically launched and endorsed UDC which he claims is the brainchild of the union. If BOFEPUSO believes that it is a champion of democracy it should not have ignored its own members especially when it pondered dabbling in partisan politics. This is absolute betrayal where the leaders have failed a simple institution such as a union to understand that democracy is consolidated through the establishment of collective participation practices in decision-making by involving members.
The conflict of politicisation of unions is not a new issue but it has been around for quite sometime and several scholars have written articles and research papers on it, most of them citing dangers associated with being involved in partisan politics.
It has been observed around the world and in some places not far from where we live, mostly the consequences have not been palatable where often workers have been left polarised and governments refusing to dialogue for lack of neutrality where partisan politics is involved. The concern by some scholars is that labour movements sometimes concentrate a lot on politics at the expense of workers issues which are not obviously limited to salary adjustments.
In a publication written by an Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1998 in Geneva the following conclusions were made: Unions should talk of employee contribution and responsibility and exhort workers to produce more, persuade management to pay more, mobilise public opinion on vital labour issues and help government to enact progressive labour laws.
From this study, it is noted that politicisation is a major obstacle for the development of strong and stable trade unions which in turn is an integral part of cordial industrial relations. Hence, these obstacles must be removed or partially adjusted through consensus.
If trade unions are free from political control then many of the issues could be drastically dealt with. Except for compliance with legal provisions, politics and trade union activities should be treated separately. Consensus among trade unions and political parties should be formed and government should take initiative to formulate strategy to ensure common objective to safeguard workers‘ as well as employers‘ interest.
Lastly trade unions play a pivotal role between workers and governments and their relationship should be guarded jealously such that differences do not turn into major conflicts. If BOFEPUSO wants to remain a formidable force in good industrial relations, it should carry its mandate constitutionally, remaining as neutral as possible and in this way labour issues could be advanced without necessarily harming its relationship with the government of the day.