Director of Ceremony,

  1. The theme of our commemoration today is, “Social Dialogue; An Imperative for tackling emerging Challenges”.
  2. But before we proceed with the core of today’s business lets journey together briefly through the memory lane in reminiscence of our departed compatriots!
  3. Thirteen days ago, in 2011, that is 10 years to be precise, Botswana rose to a rude awakening when about 90 000 public sector employees took to the streets after negotiations with their employer, namely Government, reached hard point and collapsed.
  4. The effect was a strike that was to impact on the industrial relations landscape in a manner that was unprecedented.
  5. It is worth noting that the significance of that strike in positive terms is that it knocked some sense in those who underrated the power of workers’ unity and the effectiveness of industrial action as tools for bargaining with employers and the powers that be.
  6. However so, we learnt mostly at a cost, that consultation and workers’ education including on the processes of the strike are very critical.
  7. It is common knowledge that many of our compatriots lost their jobs under the pretext that they were essential workers and therefore prohibited from partaking in the strike. Some we learn died from resultant depressive conditions owing to government’s retaliatory conduct of affairs.
  8. Against that background may I invite you to observe a moment of silence to remember those who fell and those who suffered the retaliation.


  1. Fellow workers around the globe are celebrating on this day the 1st of May, the accomplishments of close to 200 years of trade union activity and activism. In the same vein they are presenting demands for decent work and sustainable development to their governments and employers alike.
  2. More importantly, they are demanding for a new social contract in which their welfare, rights and social protection as well as the need for inclusion occupy centre space.
  3. It is in this context that we, on behalf of the labour movement in general would like to enjoin our voice to the universal clarion call for labour peace, respect for our right to exist and for social and economic justice. We reiterate the United Nations’ call for the creation of a world in which no one is left behind.
  4. Factors in our own midst which still inhibit taking everyone along, include the absence in our country, of a mandatory and genuinely national tripartite framework where both employer organizations and trade unions along with government can ventilate their concerns and any apparent demands for a better life for their members and improved working environment.
  5. Against this background we submit that workers cannot be said to be represented when their view is not considered mandatory. Thus existing structures such as the Labour Advisory Board, NEMIC and HLCC to name but a few, are merely volitional in effect.
  6. This is despite the ILO’s position that its conventions which include social dialogue do offer the compass with which to navigate any crisis including the covid-19 pandemic. But our own government prefers unilateralism rather than collectivism.
  7. Consequent to the practice of acting alone many employers, probably emulating government are bent on frustrating transparency and good faith engagement in the workplace.
  8. In most cases employees still find it hard to form and belong to trade unions without fear of reprisal by employers nor are employers keen to grant the institutionalization of Work or Industrial Councils in order to freely share and exchange information for amicable resolution of disputes.
  9. It must be mandatory for employers to disclose to employee representatives all the relevant information including financial, which would assist employees in their bargaining with the employers. In spite of this we are aware of many unscrupulous employers who withhold such critical information under different pretexts.
  10. The Department of Labour and Social Security remains seriously under resourced to dispose labour disputes lodged with them, and to ensure regular labour inspections and compliance with relevant labour laws.
  11. BFTU observes that Sustainable Development Goal Number 8 highlights the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. In spite of this government has consistently either refused or ignores calls for the introduction of a living wage.
  12. In that context, we note a survey conducted by Statistics Botswana (Multi Topic Household Survey) which revealed that a single household monthly consumption averages P4000. Despite the observation that vast majority of the working population earns far below this figure, it further emerges that employees virtually use their disposable income for transport effectively subsidizing the employers.
  13. The absence of an integrated national social security policy with many and scattered policy administrators goes to show how far behind we are in meeting those deserving of the social protection assistance despite our shared pledge not to leave anyone behind.
  14. The proliferation of the informal sector is one such indicator of the insidious degeneration in the social security sphere thereby robbing many of the dignity deserving of truly decent work.
  15. BFTU thus urges government like we did in the past through our workers’ manifesto to consider introducing the National Occupation Pension Fund so as to assist those employees who find themselves in the lurch because of automation or other unforeseen factors resulting in job loss.
  16. We further demand a reviewing of laws and provisions relating to insolvency and or liquidation to protect employees.
  17. It is the Federations considered view that social dialogue in the present dispensation is merely cosmetic and incapable of fully aiding the implementation of the SDGs and ensuring we leave no one behind.
  18. We therefore propose that a National Tripartite Council Policy Forum be set up which will involve government, employer organizations and trade unions to duly reflect on the social and economic challenges affecting the nation and accordingly make recommendations.
  19. It is our solemn attitude that whatever challenges that may be viewed as owing to covid-19 are in reality just an indicator of the worst that can become of our actual situation if we do not address or observe the afore stated propositions and international labour standards.
  20. Although we coined our theme, “Social Dialogue,” it should be pertinent from the concerns and demands we raised that, “National Dialogue” would probably have been a more suited phrase. We however deliberately avoided being construed to venture into a terrain that is rather perceived to belong to others.
  21. With that said, BFTU takes this opportunity to express satisfaction in the reassurance by his Excellency the President Mokgweetsi Masisi that a Constitutional Review is forthcoming.
  22. Critical among the issues that come to mind speaking of the review is the autonomy of Parliament especially the amendment of section 90 and 91 which relate to the ability of Parliament managing its own affairs and the power to dissolve parliament which is currently vested in the person of the President.
  23. As a federation with responsibility beyond workplace bargaining issues we feel strongly that the delayed discussion of the processes informing consultation and the substance of the envisaged review could impact adversely on the propriety of the entire exercise.
  24. On that note, we posit that genuine “Social Dialogue and National Dialogue” are imperative if we are to effectively and successfully overcome the challenges of our time.
  25. Only then, can we speak of a truly national vision, of the Africa we want and taking everyone on board.

I Thank You