The General Council of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) which is the next highest decision making body after the BFTU national congress met from 28th to 29th October 2022, and has expressed concern over the state of dispute resolution and social dialogue in the country and moved that drastic measures need to be taken to bring pressure to bear on government.

More specifically, it was observed that the Labour offices across the country especially Gaborone Block 8 District Labour Office which services the Gaborone and greater Gaborone area are poorly resourced, and mediators work under poor conditions including physical conditions. To compound matters there is no internet connectivity for use by mediators and arbitrators and no access to computers and printing facilities.

Owing to an unsupportive environment, it was found that workers end up having to wait for over 30 days after their cases have been referred which is contrary to the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act. The effect of this is that their cases are compromised from an early stage in legal terms.

The Council also lamented the state of social dialogue adding that the structures which are supposed to facilitate tripartite consultation, namely Labour Advisory Board (LAB), Minimum Wage Advisory Board (MWAB) and High Level Consultative Council (HLCC), have since gone on leave and that leads to suspicion that critical decisions may be taken by government without due consultation with social partners.

Another critical issue of concern raised by the General Council related to the status of the draft Employment and Labour Relations Law which it is argued has since been sitting with the Ministry and Attorney Generals chamber (AGC) for a long time and fear has been expressed that unless pressure is brought to bear on government it could end up in the shelves.

The Council also noted through a report provided to the ILO by Attorney General Chambers (AGC) that government does not regard the drafting of the Employment and Labour Relations bill as a priority. As a federation we are therefore very concerned about the report at issue and view it as a demonstration of non-commitment on the part of government to actualize tripartite agreements.

In the same context there was concern that ratification of two critical conventions, namely C187 and C155 Occupational health and safety and Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work as a minimum by Botswana, was taking a long time despite global and national developments providing evidence that it is imperative to ratify and domesticate theses conventions.  

The slow ratification of conventions coupled with government’s inability to conclude on key policies such as the National OSH policy are a grave cause for concern.

The General Council had opportunity to listen to and appreciated discussions with the ILO’s Just Transition and Renewable Energy coordinator, MS Onneetse Makhumalo. There was concern regarding government’s continued non- involvement of Labour in, Just Transitions and renewable Energy forums activities and conceptual processes in particular the labour movement’s involvement in COP 27 discussions.

It is therefore, the Federations view that the labour movement as a key stakeholder and social partner must be included in the discussions and forums regarding Just Transition and renewable energy to represent and articulate properly the views and concerns of workers. This would as well ensure ownership by the trade union movement and Labour in general of whatever interventions are conceived for tackling climate change related challenges.

Furthermore, Council deliberated on the issue of the need for an interactive engagement with political parties citing the invitations received this year to attend or participate in their congresses and conferences this year. It was noted that BFTU needs to take advantage of the invitations by all political parties to share trade unions positions on pertinent matters of national interest and to encourage them as well to confine themselves to solidarity rather than political campaigns.  However, the Council was also cautioned by delegates against political parties invited to BFTU activities such as May Day and Congresses turning the events into political rallies and to focus on solidarity messages speaking to workers issues.

The Council implored Government’s wisdom and criteria in coming up with a minimum wage of P2.500 for public service employees and students’ allowance of about P1.900 whilst the general minimum wage for employees in the private sector is P1.084 . It was therefore resolved to come up with a strategy to campaign for a more reasonable figure for a living wage.

A number of resolutions were thus taken to attract the attention of government to the need for change of status quo. The following are some of the decisions that were made:

1. BFTU to approach the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs with a view to  answers and explanations regarding the situation at the District Labour Offices.

2. That will raise concerns with the Minister as to why the LAB, MWAB and HLCC are not meeting and why they are not adequately resourced both financially and human resource wise.

3. The Federation resolved that the labour movement must take the lead in demanding for the enactment of a living wage contending that the present minimum wage which is P1084 is far too little in light of escalating costs of living.

4. In order to promote a world of work that is free from violence and sexual   harassment the BFTU General Council resolved that a strategy to campaign for government’s ratification and implementation of Convention 190 be devised. The main mandate of the convention is to provide a framework to prevent and address violence in the workplace.

5. The Council resolved to adopt the findings of a gender audit consultancy which called for equity within the ranks of the BFTU affiliates and the labour movement in general.

6. BFTU to demand representation in the Just Transition and renewable energy forums such as those dealing with COP matters.