Workers from the private sector, which is notorious for disregarding workers’ rights and where there is almost non-existence of formal and set standards to protect workers from abuse and exploitation, can now enjoy protection from the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU).
This development comes after BOFEPUSU finally gained formal recognition as a labour centre by government and already the federation has hit the ground running by opening its doors to affiliates from parastatals and the private sector. According to BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari, the recognition was a moment of triumph for the federation, and it will now expose them to a whole new world of opportunities. “BOFEPUSU can now sit in all tripartite structures, involving trade unions, government and the labour commissioner,” he said.
BOFEPUSU Deputy secretary general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, said as BOFEPUSU is no longer a sectorial federation it will now go all out to assist in organising all non-unionised workers more especially those in the private sector. According to Motshegwa four unions from the private sector have so far joined BOFEPUSU. These new entrants to the BOFEPUSU family are Botswana Commercial and General Workers Union, Botswana Communications Workers Union, Cashiers, Shop Assistants & Allied Workers Union and Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union. Most of the new entrants according to Motshegwa are from industries notorious of disregarding workers’ rights and where there is almost non-existence of formal and set standards to protect workers from abuse and exploitation.
Motshegwa said BOFEPUSU has also made contact with a number of unions in the private sector with prospects of joining them. He said they were also looking into the possibility of assisting in reviving some unions which have so far gone dormant. The new developments are according to Motshegwa not only a step in the right direction but they will make their voice louder and boast an increased influence through increased membership. He said just like the public sector have the bargaining council, as BOFEPUSU they were currently pushing for establishments of industrial councils, where trade unions will be able to engage employers at length about workers’ rights and other labour issues.
Their wish to see an organised labour force in Botswana, Motshegwa says, is geared at sending a warning to employers to start taking workers’ rights seriously. Motshegwa warned employers that BOFEPUSU will not take kindly to victimisation of unionised workers and will take to task any employer who will engage in such.
BOFEPUSU Labour Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole shared Motshegwa's sentiments saying government and other employers in Botswana need to be warned that the federation is not going to tolerate the gross violation of workers’ rights that is currently the norm. As a matter of fact Motshwarakgole says there is an urgent need for new national salary structure review. According to Motshwarakgole there was also a need for the Labour Commissioner to be independent and not in the employ of government as is the case currently. “How then do you think the commissioner would be fair and transparent if he is to preside over a case against his employer?” asked Motshwarakgole.