12 June 2018

Botswana: Govt Review Commit to Labour Laws

Gaborone — Government has reaffirmed its commitment to review labour laws as well as determination to improve industrial relations.

Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development Mr Tshenolo Mabeo said in a joint press briefing yesterday with tripartite partners, Directorate of Public Service Management, trade unions and Business Botswana that, as a result, a Labour Law Review Committee has been established to spearhead a comprehensive review process. He said the Employment Act and the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act were among those earmarked for review.

The review, he said, would allow labour laws to conform to the implementation of Convention No. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention as recommended by International Labour Organisation (ILO). Minister Mabeo said the scope of the review would be broadened to include the Public Service Act as well as the Trade Disputes Act.

He said government would ensure that laws were reviewed and bills submitted for discussion by the November Parliament.

"It is important to note that during government's engagement with the representatives of employers and workers, it became clear that the amendment of the Trade Disputes Act particularly with a view to reviewing the list of essential services, was of critical importance to workers," he said.

Minister Mabeo's remarks followed some developments from the just-ended 107th Session of the ILO convention which was held in Geneva, Switzerland where Botswana had to answer for failure to implement Convention No. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise.

Lately, Botswana had been in the limelight following amendment of the Trade Dispute Act that, among others, increased the number of cadres forming part of the essential services to include diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, teaching services, veterinary services in the public service, immigration and Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), broadcasting services as well as the fuel haulage services.

Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Mr Nonofo Molefhi said he was confident the task force would move expeditiously in reviewing labour laws.

Government, he said, continued to be readily available to work with workers on the issue, adding the review was not only aimed at satisfying the ILO, but to help keep up with changes in the labour market.

"Whatever we do, we must be fully aware that we do it for this Republic," he said.

Mr Molefhi said pronouncements that government made with regards to labour review were not motivated by appearance at ILO convention, but were part of government's internal processes.

"Government has a desire to re-look and re-orient our industrial relations," he said.

He said government would need to take time to do a thorough job without being fearful of the next appearance at ILO.

Mr Molefi said government and tripartite partners would explore all opportunities in dealing with the issues. Trade unions representative, also Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) secretary general, Mr Tobokani Rari, said his organisation was elated by government's commitment to work with tripartite partners on reviewing labour laws and ensuring that the review committee worked towards realising ILO Committee of Application of Standards (CAS) recommendations.

"We welcome commitments and we can only hope that they translate into practical and tangible deliverables. As the labour movement of Botswana, we acknowledge what we wish to characterise as a new beginning in achieving industrial relations in Botswana," he said. He further challenged government to consult and respond to labour issues and fully comply with all its obligations to the ratified ILO conventions. Business Botswana representative, Mr Ditshaba Molobe, who was part of the delegation that attended ILO convention, said the interest of his institution was to ensure that there was a stable macro-economic environment.

"For business to thrive, you need to have good relations with workers and the environment for doing business should be stable," he said. He said Business Botswana was part of the tripartite that deliberated on issues regarding labour review to ensure necessary amendments to were made.

"We have to ensure that during the amendments, we must take note of the interest of business, not to erode our competitiveness as a country as it is the only route to lift Batswana out of poverty," he said.

Source : BOPA

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