The year 2015 was a mixed bag for trade unions especially for Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) as they were embroiled in bitter war with their then affiliate Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) especially its president Andrew Motsamai. When Motsamai was re-elected as the President and the congress voted to disaffiliate from BOFEPUSU, this was a major blow to the latter. The disaffiliation by BOPEU meant that BOFEPUSU’s strength has been weakened as their number has been reduced significantly as BOPEU commanded 27000 public service employees out of the 95000.
This is did not go well with BOFEPUSU leadership. As they were still licking their wounds, the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) pull the rag under their feet when it moved to wanted to stop negotiating with them over salaries as it felt they didn’t constitute a number that could represent public workers at the bargaining council. They did not take it lightly and took DPSM to Industrial Court and this week the two parties agreed to settle the issue out of court with BOFEPUSU ordered to come with audited report of their members. On the 18th of January the parties shall convene at PSBC to deliberate on the outcome of the verification process carried out by the third respondent, reads the court order.
The pulling out of BOPEU has also brought to life Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) which sees the development as lifesaving jacket to their sinking boat. BFTU, which has been icy silent for the better of 2015, sprang to life at the end of the year attacking BOFEPUSU for claiming to be a labour centre. The once fiery federation, which saw its fortunes tumble when BOFEPUSU was formed accused the public sector federation of misleading the nation by saying they are a labour centre and blatantly calling them liars. Some in the labour industry viewed the attack as a tactic by BFTU of enticing BOPEU. The charm seemed to be working as BOPEU has been flirting with BFTU when their relationship with BOFEPUSU was in between rocks.
Though they have not taken a decision to join BFTU, BOPEU has indicated that they are doing due diligence to assess whether they should cross over. Interestingly, it was BOPEU and Manual Workers Unions who first broke ties with BFTU to form BOFEPUSU and now it is BOPEU that is more likely to reunite with their former federation. The arrival of BOPEU will certainly not only boost membership of BFTU but will crease its purse. As a way of appeasing and pampering its former lover, BFTU is expected to hand the leadership of the federation to BOPEU President Andrew Motsamai on a silver platter.
Is there a future for BOFEPUSU?
The adage ‘what goes around comes around’ might sound fitting to BOFEPUSU but the public sector federation has vowed that it will reboot and align itself to the current trends. BOFEPUSU has called on members to be supportive to the federation, “remain resilient and focused as we go through this difficult path.” The difficult path that BOFEPUSU is talking about is said to be made worse by the continuous exodus of some employees from Manual Workers to join BOPEU due to its enticing packages. Another challenge which they feel might affect them is nurses who are now dumping Botswana Land Board and Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) for Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) - an affiliate of BFTU.
Another challenge for BOFEPUSU is the recent announcement by its two affiliates Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Botswana Sector for Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) that they intend to federate, unite or amalgamate. According to authoritative sources within the two unions, if the two federate it will mean their contributions to BOFEPUSU will be reduced significantly and this will affect its coffers. The two teacher unions met last year in Palapye to discuss the model they want to take as they felt it is high time they unite or federate. This is said to be a threat to BOFEPUSU position at Bargaining Council, hence their resolution to hold a retreat later this month in Francistown. After being recognised as labour centre by government BOFEPUSU has announced that they are currently recruiting unions from the private sector to join them and many have shown willingness to come on board.
BTU elective Congress
One of the main highlights of this year in union calendar will be elective congress at BTU which is expected to attract lot of attention as it is one the fastest growing unions in the country in terms of members and assets. The battle for presidency will pit the incumbent Johannes Tshukudu against his deputy Kenathata Dipogiso but the most interesting is the candidacy of deputy Secretary Gotlamang Oitsile who is said to have indicated interest in challenging for the presidency.
He was in the same faction with Tshukudu during the 2013 congress in Mmadinare and insiders have revealed that since the departure of their foot soldier Gofaone Pusompe, Tshukudu’s faction has been paralyzed. Pusompe was the Publicity Secretary for BTU and was instrumental in Tshukudu’s victory in Mmadinare in one of the tense elections in the union’s 78 years but unceremoniously resigned a year after being elected citing that he was used by the faction for its own personal gain.