1. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) commemorates World Workers Day in solidarity with the toiling working class. We appreciate the massive positive contribution of the workers to the national economy as creators of wealth and drivers of development. They do so despite the deplorable and exploitative working conditions they are subjected to. On this International Labour Day, UDC as a pro workers party expresses its gratitude to all the workers in the different economic sectors for their priceless contribution to the country’s gross domestic product. The country’s tag of a middle income economy is a product of the workers’ sweat.
2. Regrettably this year’s May Day commemorations will be celebrated under a heavy dark cloud of COVID 19 which World Health Organisation has declared a pandemic. As a consequence of the resultant lockdown restrictions, there will be no public gatherings.
3. The UDC sympathises with the essential service workers and other frontline workers who face the worst brunt of this disease as they are at the forefront of the battle. We applaud these brave workers whose working and living conditions have not been appreciated by both the government and the private sector Employers. In fact, at one point, they worked for days with no personal protective equipment, depicting a practice of lack of commitment to occupational safety and health.
4. UDC once more calls upon the government and private sector employers who have enjoyed huge profits from the hard work of workers' sacrifices and high exposure to the virus, to pay these brave workforce handsomely through a package of incentives for their priceless contribution. The risks to their lives and immediate families is unfathomable and well known by all. Other countries have announced a string of benefits to the frontline workers as a form of gratitude.
5. We would like to bow and take off our hats to all the frontline workers; health practitioners, social workers , cooks, drivers, cleaners, disciplined forces, journalists, petrol attendants, shop assistants, Immigration and customs employees and all the supportive industries who have ensured that lives are saved and the economy keeps on running.
6. The UDC strongly condemns both the government and private sector employers who have violated workers' rights during this lockdown period. We note President Mokweetsi Masisi's May Day speech where he sheds crocodile tears by claiming to be sympathetic to the working class through "emancipation of workers from poor and inhuman working conditions". He further claims that his government has signed and upholds the Botswana Decent Work Country Programme and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. While these two instruments promote workers' rights, decent employment opportunities, social protection and social dialogue, the Masisi administration has fared badly on these. The State of Public Emergency has stripped workers of their right to strike, a right enshrined in domestic Labour laws and ILO conventions. The Masisi led administration has reneged on a collective bargaining agreement with public sector unions over salary increment of 6% and 10% without using social dialogue that the president is preaching today on Labour Day. The Government operates by way of unilateral decision making with disregard and disrespect for Trade Unions and workers .The Masisi government has in a subtle manner forced the disciplined forces to contribute to the COVID 19 fund. It is a known practice that those who will not contribute will be punished through lack of promotion and subjected to other trumped up and subtle disciplinary proceedings.
7. President Masisi has successfully proved himself as a champion of antiworkers brigade. He was the face of Government’s ruthless treatment of workers during the 2011 strike. He made and continues to make unfulfilled promises to workers just to make political mileage from the unsuspecting workers. The workers must know Masisi for who he is, a deceptive and untruthful leader who will say everything needed to be heard just for the sake of getting what he wants. A man who, once he gets what he wanted, would forget about the promises he made. As we speak the public service bargaining council is dysfunctional. The workers are harassed in the workplace and there are massive retrenchments. His government has not complied with ILO findings of 2017 and there are no attempts for establishment of Independent Dispute Resolution system and labour court at appeals levels. There is continuing violation of ILO conventions, with the space shrinking for the role of workers. Masisi is an unforgiving and vengeful leader, and for the sake that Union leaders and workers had battles with him in the past , he will surely come after them now that he has a five year period (though he got it fraudulently) to rule the Country.
8. The government has failed dismally to respect workers’ rights and freedoms. It fails to engage them in good faith in all work related issues. There are several disturbing reports of worker rights violations by both government and several private companies during this period.
9. We further call upon workers’ organisations, BFTU and BOFEPUSU to be on the lookout for the wayward employers and be ready to unconditionally protect and defend workers’ rights and freedoms. The workers organisations should not trust the government to protect their Labour rights.
Viva Workers Power Viva
Press Release distributed by UDC Communications. For any inquiries please contact Moeti Mohwasa +26 77 302 1911