14 May 2019

Botswana: BFTU Decries Job Losses

Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU)- has expressed concern about increasing incidents of retrenchments in the private sector and government owned enterprises, particularly parastatals.

The concern was raised by BFTU Secretary General Thusang Butale on the sidelines of Botswana Textile, Manufacturing and Packaging Workers Union (BOTEMAPAWU) Labour Day celebrations held in Gaborone last week. He said the high retrenchments level in the midst of high unemployment is a serious cause for concern especially both in the government owned enterprises and private sector.

Just recently, prior to the International Labour day commemorations Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) is said to have sent retrenchment letters to ninety (90) employees terminating their jobs. Butale said this comes at a time when President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has been promising more jobs since ascending to presidency and the disturbing trend of increasing retrenchments the situation. During the International Labourt Day celebrations in Francistown last week, Masisi had reiterated that government will create decent jobs, despite the trade unions dismissing his unfulfilled promises amongst others the defunct Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).

Butale decried that the retrenchment scourge is resulting in massive job losses despite government's continued failure to address high unemployment.Consequently, he said there is a serious need by the government to review labor laws and put in place policies that will help revive the national economy and create more jobs. He said the introduction of the the Private Sector Bargaining Council is long overdue because it will improve and safeguard the job security in the private sector.

"Every day, every week and year we are receiving reports of workers being dismissed on unfair grounds. Companies in the private sector as well as the government enterprises continues to be retrenching employees in large numbers. Look at the massive cuts of over 100 employees by LEA back in 2018 due added to more job losses already incurred when BCL mine closed in 2016. This leaves a lot to be desired in terms of unemployment in the country," Butale said, adding that commercial banks are some of the biggest retrenching companies, clearly demonstrating that the private sector employees face serious job insecurity.

State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have embarked on the massive retrenchment drive since 2016 with parastatals such as Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) axing over 131 workers employed at Talana Farms, BDC's subsidiary.

More retrenchment in the public owned enterprises has been attributed to huge losses that they continue to incur as the Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo has been indicating every year on the budget that parastatals such as BMC, Air Botswana and BDC are still making huge losses. The financial beleaguered National development Bank (NDB) was also the latest to add to the retrenchment bandwagon in 2018 retrenching half of its staff owing to cash crisis that hit the bank.

Corruption

Butale also noted that rampant corruption increase in some of government enterprises in the past is part of the reason the parastatals now feeling compelled to retrench hundreds of employees on annual basis. "There has been a number of huge corruption incidents with money being swindled such as the P250 million from the NPF coffers, and how does the P 4 billion just misses from the central bank so simply and nothing done about it. Corruption rot is what leads to high unemployment rate and mass job losses in our country," he added.

He therefore cautioned the leadership of the unions that forms part of BFTU to desist from engaging into corrupt practices hinting that corruption is an enemy of successful trade union movement.

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