A year after being elected as President of Botswana Sector for Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) Kinston Radikolo has unveiled his road map themed “Transforming BOSETU into a high performing trade union by 2020” which he said is already in motion.
Radikolo said the theme for the roadmap was motivated by the zeal and appetite to transform BOSETU into a high performing union which is fuelled by the strong foundation laid by their founding fathers that were able to fight for and win recognition from government and employers and build structures.
“A high performance organisation is the one that achieves both financial and non-financial results that surpass those of its competitors over a period of five years or more, these achievements should be obtained in a disciplined way and should be on things that really matters to the organisation,” he said, flanked by is National Executive Committee (NEC) members.
Formed in 1987, and known then as Botswana Federation of Secondary School Teachers (BOFESETE), the union – one of the leading ones in the country – advocates mainly for the welfare of teachers and their status.
Membership and growth
The primary function of a trade union is to promote and protect the interest of its members; improve working and living conditions and to represent workers' interests. Trade unions have however fallen short of achieving their set objectives due to challenges that are both external and internal. Radikolo acknowledged that in the past they saw decline in the registration of new members and retention of old ones.
As way of retaining their membership and recruiting new ones, they embarked on an ambitious recruitment drive themed “achieving 20,000 members by 2020”.
“For the past 12 months we have achieved a significant growth of 2.6% and member terminations have been reduced by 68%. This clearly demonstrates that the plan is bearing fruits,” he said beaming with smile.
BOSETU, which was initially for Botswana Secondary School Teachers, was to later transform into Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union after the 2009 congress resolution that was necessitated by the need to accommodate the process of organising in other sub-sectors such as the pre-primary, primary and tertiary. They also wanted to enhance ways of improving service to their members.
Radikolo said they pledged at the Policy Congress held in Palapye recently that they will improve their internal business processes and value chain to provide excellent services to their customers. As way of ensuring that they are not only rhetoric but proactive, he revealed that they have established a Call Centre that started full operations in August and will go a long way in speedily providing information to clients.
To ensure that they provide services to their clients well in time, BOSETU – whose members are scattered all over the country – has since taken a decision to open an office in Kang, which will provide services their members in Jwaneng, Kgalagadi and Ghanzi areas. BOSETU, which has satellite offices in Palapye, Francistown and Maun, will see them being upgraded into one stop service provision offices.
The 31 year old educators union will increase its mobile shops to reach far areas with the fleet increased to two vehicles.
Accountability and Governance
Of recent one of the reasons attributed to decline and failure to retain members in trade unions is the alleged embezzlement of union funds by the leaders and Botswana labour movement has not been spared the accusation.
Some union leaders were recently hauled before the courts on allegations that they embezzled union funds through unscrupulous investments which led to the collapse of the union investment companies.
To curb the problem and retain confidence from their members Radikolo and his NEC has taken a bold decision to come up with a Board Charter which he said is ready to be endorsed by the National Governing Council.
“The charter will assist in improving the union governance structures and practices. Soon members of boards will have to declare their assets,” he said, adding that all their boards have been trained on corporate governance.
Members’ social and economic beneficiation
As a way of celebrating their 30th anniversary, BOSETU has launched a bursary as a way of trying to improve their status. Radikolo revealed that they have spent P1.7 million to sponsor their loyal members to further their studies at any institution of their choice.
After the economic meltdown which adversely affected the income of most of the workers resulting in most them not affording to access loans to improve their farms or build decent houses for themselves, BOSETU has stepped in to help their members in that regard.
“The union has reached a lucrative loan scheme for the members with BANC ABC. Its cover a wide arrange of areas that are pertinent to the economic wellbeing of the members,” revealed Radikolo.
Financial and income diversification
Over the years labour movements have seen their income dwindling due to reliance on membership subscription leading them to be constrained in running their programmes. To address this, BOSETU has drafted a very ambitious diversification programme.
“The programme is for the union to open revenue streams and ease over reliance on membership subscriptions. Tied to these income diversification programmes, is individual member economic growth,” revealed the ambitious BOSETU leader.
The envisaged programmes, according to Radikolo, will see individual members playing a core role and becoming economic players as individuals or as a group.
Former USA President John F Kennedy hailed the role trade unions play in influencing government policies. “Our labour unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.”
BOSETU seems to have taken a leaf from his statement as Radikolo revealed that through their incessant and relentless pressure, the Botswana Teaching Professionals Bill has now been fashioned into a labour friendly bill.
“The powers of the Ministers have been reduced. BOTECO will now be run by an independent body free of political influence and interference,” he revealed as his lieutenants nodded their heads in agreement.
In 2011 Botswana Government through the amendment of the Trade Dispute Act enlisted the teaching profession as essential service thus barring members from engaging in industrial strikes, something that irked the labour movements.
Radikolo said BOSETU has been playing a leading role in influencing the government out of the draconian and unfriendly law.
One of the thorny issues troubling BOSETU leadership, according to Radikolo, is negotiating in bad faith by their partners, especially government and have advocated for a paradigm shift in negotiations and acts.
“The government seems to be still stack in the old way of negotiating characterised by bad faith, mistrust and power struggle,” he said.
Another challenge is that of hostile managers mostly school heads, who still view unions as trouble makers as opposed to partners and as such turning schools into battle fields.