Gaborone — Government will ensure that the Public Service Bargaining Council is revived and fully functional by September this year as a means of boosting industrial relations.
This was revealed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi when addressing leaders of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) during a luncheon in Gaborone on Tuesday.
He said government was engaging all public sector unions with a view of evaluating the council's constitution and to have it functional by September.
President Masisi said this was part of a government process to address labour movement concerns in order to improve industrial relations.
"I am aware of some of the concerns (of the public sector labour movement) which include the deregistration of the Public Service Bargaining Council, which has caused a lot of discontentment among stakeholders; the review of labour laws, which initially excluded the Public Service Act and Trade Disputes Act, and the appearance of our country before the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Committee on Application of Standards and conditions of service in general," he said.
The president said with government having made job creation a priority, the relationship with trade unions was of paramount importance.
"In my inaugural address, I made a commitment to fight unemployment by, among others, making job creation a priority. My government is prepared to work with all those who are committed to this course. As the labour movement, your contribution is critical," President Masisi said.
He said government and labour should work together in a mutually beneficial manner in order to benefit all stakeholders and the national developmental agenda.
"The relationship between government and the trade unions must be anchored on mutual respect, partnership and recognition of the fact that we need each other to move Botswana forward. This is important if we are to achieve harmonious industrial relations," the president noted.
The Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Mr Nonofo Molefhi said the luncheon was part of the president's consultation process with different sectors and stakeholders in the society and that the occasion acted as a prelude to future formal meetings between government and union leaders.
Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mr Tshenolo Mabeo called the meeting a 'visionary act' which would unite government and the labour fraternity and harmonise working relations. He said government was committed to social protection and safety in the workplace and freedom of speech and association of workers. He further thanked unions for steadfastly working on improving industrial relations.
Commenting, BFTU president, Mr Bohithetswe Lentswe expressed concern that the meeting included public sector unions only saying parastatal and private sector unions also needed to be consulted since issues such as retrenchments were rife in those sectors.
Mr Lentswe also called for the evaluation of the education system saying it currently did not produce readily employable youth with entrepreneurial abilities to create jobs.
For his part BOFEPUSU president, Mr Johannes Tshukudu said if youth unemployment was not adequately addressed the country could face other challenges such as crime. He welcomed the president's decision to consult on various subjects including issues affecting the entertainment industry and the alcohol levy.
Source : BOPA