The Secretary General of Botswana Federation for Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEPUSU) Tobokani Rari has implored media workers to rally behind the Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOWAWU) to ensure its successful take off and functioning. Speaking on Friday during the Freedom of Association and Labour Rights workshop in Gaborone, Rari noted that the only way BOMAWU will be successful is when media workers themselves proactively pledge support for it and its activities. This was after BOMAWU President Philemon Mmeso bemoaned reluctance by media workers to join the union despite being continuously exploited by their employers. This, he said, leads to a litany of deplorable working conditions including low wages. “Media workers in this country especially journalists have for a long time not regarded themselves as workers and this is the reason why conditions of service in the sector are so deplorable,” Rari charged. He encouraged BOMAWU leadership to continue mobilising and organising workers in the industry to join the union in numbers. According to Rari, the time for BOMAWU to sit down with employers and negotiate better packages for its members is long over. “It is really disheartening to learn that a fulltime photographer could still be earning around P1500 monthly in the day and era; considering that the amount cannot even meet the basic cost of living and the prescribed minimum wage,” said Rari.
He accused media employers for having violated basic labour rights of their employees for a long time. “What does government do for example to protect workers when employers bar them from unionising as is the case with some media employers?” Rari remarked. Meanwhile the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development Tshenolo Mabeo who officially opened the workshop also echoed the need for media workers to stay united. “BOMAWU can only be effective if it speaks with a collective voice. Therefore, it would be to your advantage as journalists that you remain united under your trade union,” said Mabeo. He noted that unionisation cannot thrive where there is no conducive environment for freedom of association, the right to organise and conditions precedent for the protection of workers interests and said that fortunately for in Botswana labour laws form a solid foundation for the realization of these rights by workers. “I wish to emphasise that Government will continue to engage and work with a trade unions for the benefit of the public. This engagement is evident in the open dialogue that continues to take place through social dialogue structures that are in place,” he said.