Botswana: Masisi Faces Unions' Revolt

30 October 2020

Growing discontentment of labour unions towards President Mokgweetsi Masisi over unfulfilled promises needs to be resolved amicably, political analyst Lesole Machacha has cautioned.

Machacha said Masisi could be losing the sympathy from unions over unresolved issues such as the revival of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and the implementation of recommendations contained in the PEMANDU report.

"If trade unions become unhappy over government particularly the president himself there can be a problem but Masisi is able to deliver whatever unions are unhappy about. The unions do have influence which can harm BDP going to next polls. But so far Masisi has done better," he said.

He opines that the unions should also appreciate the fact that the government halted public servants salary increase due to Covid-19 but later on paid them with back pays.

Masisi and the Directorate of Public Management Service's (DPSM) failure to keep promises made to them infuriate Public Service trade unions. The trade unions representatives expressed their concerns mainly on the government's failure to implement lucrative salary recommendations contained in the PEMANDU report.

Appearing before parliamentary committees on Public Service and its Management and Labour, unions said government must resuscitate Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) as Masisi promised.

Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) President Johannes Tshukudu on Wednesday said DPSM and Masisi have been frustrating trade unions over failure to deliver on their promises.

Tshukudu said DPSM has frustrated all efforts by unions aimed at fighting for the welfare of workers. "We are deeply frustrated by Masisi's government and DPSM. We demand all the promises that government and employer, DPSM have promised to us. We need no excuses at all," he moaned.

Disgruntled Tshukudu said the bargaining council collapsed during the regime of former President Ian Khama and his successor Masisi promised to bring it back but failed to deliver.

Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), 1st vice president Donald Mokgwe blasted DPSM Director Goitseone Mosalakatane, labeling her a real master of delay tactics over PEMANDU.

Mokgwe said DPSM has decided to shelve the PEMANDU report salary recommendations but insisted that as trade union they will not hesitate to push for the report to come out of shelves.

He said the recommendations in the report talked to improving conditions of service for workers, adding that PEMANDU should be adopted to correct defects.

"DPSM Director is the weakest link in advancing the good course of tripartite bargaining. She never creates time for the unions to talk to issues that affect the workers. She has a tendency of hiding behind Covid-19 as an excuse," he blasted Mosalakatane.

BLLAHWU president Thatayaone Kesebonye said Government was misleading by claiming that the bargaining council was collapsed by unions themselves due to their fights over its control. Kesebonye said government should consider setup Covid-19 Insurance Fund for the frontline workers to be party to the international standards as adopted by other countries.

He indicated that the Six Cooperating Trade Unions (6CTU) engaged Mosalakatane over the matter but she failed to agree to pay risk allowance citing budgetary constraints.

DPSM devoted

Briefing the parliamentary committee Director of DPSM Mosalakatane said she is dedicated to ensuring that all bargaining issues agreed to with trade unions such as the PSBC will be executed fully.

She said the PEMANDU report conditions of services would be looked into but could not dwell to talk on a rekindled hot potato topic insisting that future consultations over issues will be done.

Mosalakatane told the committee that despite the unhappiness by unions that she is the stumbling block for progress, she said she has good working relationship with all trade unions.

"We are committed to ensuring that the workers conditions of service are improved. DPSM is also committed to resuscitate the PSBC based on President Masisi's declaration in 2018. The unions are the ones who could be blamed for the collapse of the council as they had different issues," she averred.

To this end, the DPSM boss said a technical committee mandated to come up with draft constitution for PSBC is ongoing, noting that negotiations on bargaining council will be held sometime in November 2020.

But the unions doubt the commitment of DPSM Director towards resuscitation of PSBC.

BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari said DPSM should desist from claiming that unions collapsed the bargaining council, emphasizing that the employer is playing delay tactics to revive the council.

Regarding the risk allowances for essential workers, she said the trade unions should clearly come out to define who is deemed as essential worker hence unions failed to account for that. But, she said, the employer is grappling with lack of ample budget to advance the risk stipends.

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