Govt. sliding into autocracy - BOFEPUSU
Minister Peggy Serame overzealous and punching above her weight - Rari Parliament gives workers middle finger
Parliament has given the working class the middle finger and disregarded calls by the two labour centres to withdraw two critical pieces of legislation seen as hostile to the public sector.
The two centres are the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions ( BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions ( BFTU).
Before going into recess Parliament discussed and passed the Public Procurement Bill and the Employment Draft Policy, against calls by the labour movement that the two be withdrawn. The labour movements have previously expressed discontent with the two pieces of legislation.
On Employment Policy, BOFEPUSU and BFTU said the policy is a deliverable of the Decent Work Country Programme under the stewardship of the Ministry of Employment and Skills Development, and therefore it is not appropriate for the Ministry of Finance to even be tabling the Bill as they are not the relevant Ministry responsible for labour administration in the country.
The unions stated that the tripartite partners have not been engaged on the policy that was being tabled before parliament. This, according to them goes against the tenets of effective social dialogue and tripartite framework which are spelt out in the Country’s Decent Work Country programme and labour laws.
This is a recipe for disastrous industrial relations in the country, the unions through the two labour centres said, indicating that in their view the discussions should be withdrawn from the parliamentary debate and sent back to the Ministry of Employment and Skills Development to engage with social partners at relevant social dialogue structures.
The unions explained that they have since indicated their displeasure to the Minister of Employment Productivity and Skills Development, Minister of Finance Development and Planning, Clerk of National Assembly, Chief whips of both ruling party and opposition party caucus.
After Parliament ignored their demands, BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari who also heads the trade unions delegation in dealing with the government said “at some point during the month of July DPSM called us for a hurriedly- called meeting to discuss matters surrounding public procurement.
“We replied to the letter indicating that the meeting was hurried and requested to be given some more time as we were not in a position to attend the meeting on the proposed date.
“We proposed rather a different date. DPSM never returned to us on the matter. Surprisingly we only heard the issue now being discussed in Parliament without consulting the unions and consequently without our input.
“We are really worried that this government is sliding into autocracy. Consultation has now become a taboo to them. This is really bad for democracy. We will be discussing the passing of this Bill by Parliament with a view to take a decision to litigate for non– consultation”.
The outspoken labour unionist who is also Secretary- General for BOSETU said they are disappointed that in spite of alerting Minister Peggy Serame through a letter addressed to her and copied to the Clerk of the National Assembly and the two Chief Whips in Parliament, the Employment Policy being a matter that falls within the preview of discussion by the tripartite, has not been passed through the tripartite structure and as such, they have not been consulted on the matter, she still went and pushed it through Parliament.
“We feel strongly that Minister Serame’s actions border on disrespect of the laid down structures as provided for by the laws of the country and by the international labour standards as provided for by the ILO conventions.
“I would as well put on record that issues of employment are not within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. They are within the purview of the Ministry of Employment Labour Productivity and Skills Development.
“This is the Ministry that coordinates and oversees all matters of employment. Minister Serame is not only becoming overzealous on the matter, but she is also punching above weight by encroaching on the jurisdiction that is not hers”, Rari told Botswana Guardian in an interview this week.
“We will definitely be approaching our lawyers for advice on this matter with a view to reverse the policy through the courts as we have not been consulted and also that the right procedure has not been followed,” Rari said.