Public funds amounting to thousands of pula were wasted on Tuesday when the trade union pitso scheduled for Boipuso hall in Gaborone was aborted after it was officially opened by the minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu.
Although The Patriot on Sunday could not establish the exact amount budgeted for the conference, where representatives from International Labour Organisation (ILO) and SATUCC were invited to present.
Soon after Batshu had officially opened the pitso and left the proceedings, representatives from Botswana Federation of Trade unions (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) jointly raised an objection to the agenda of the meeting. They argued that their invitation showed that the pitso was going to discuss the trade union and employers Act with a view to amend it. Contrary to expectations the agenda for the pitso only showed that there will be presentations from ILO and SATUCC. BFTU and BOFEPUSU further said they were not prepared for the agenda because it was not what they were invited for. The unions also indicated that they were given short notice to effectively engage in discussions. As such, they were not in a position to effectively participate in the Pitso, something that would have defeated the purpose of the Pitso.
BOFEPUSU secretary general Tobokani Rari said even if the TUEOA amendment was to be discussed at the pitso they were not prepared and needed time to discuss the proposed amendments within the trade union movement. He said they were given under five days to prepare for the meeting which was not sufficient for the trade union party to form a position and prepare a presentation. "We were sceptical that if we honored the meeting and allowed proceedings to continue we would have been on record as having discussed the TUEOA amendment, which was not the case. The conduct of government makes us very suspicious," he said.
The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs issued a statement on Thursday informing the public that the Trade Unions Pitso which was to be held on the 7th July 2015, could not go ahead as intended. "As a ministry responsible for labour relations and that values social dialogue, the ministry considered the concerns of the participants and agreed to defer the Pitso to a later date. The ministry will engage further with the stakeholders in this regard," read the statement.
Meanwhile the two federations have raised objection to the proposed Trade Disputes Bill, which is scheduled to be discussed in the current session of parliament. "We are opposed to the unprocedural enactment and of the (Bill) and substantively opposed to some sections of the Bill, mainly section 46 and 47 on essential services," read a statement from the federations.
They argue that the new bill represents a resurgence of the government's intention to extend its definition further and thereby limit further the right to strike. Government has increased the number of essential services from 10 to 14 with an express power to the minister to declare more services essential. The federations said the effect of the bill is to curtail workers' rights and in particular the right to strike, which is the only weapon that workers have at their disposal to back up demands during collective bargaining and in peaceful coercion of employers in a relationship which is inherently unbalanced.