The Public Service Bargaining Council should be resuscitated for a more constructive and effective engagement between government and public service unions, says Botswana’s Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi.
During the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) – organised Labour Day held in Palapye on May 1, Molefhi said it was regrettable that currently there was no bargaining council, adding that it was imperative that unions and government worked as partners to ensure resuscitation of the important platform.
He expressed hope that a new constitution would avoid some of the pit falls of the previous one.
The PSBC constitution, he said, was not the only governance and regulatory document that had sprung up challenges when being put to practical use.
“During its operational cycle, the current Public Service Act has encountered its own problems which do not fully and effectively facilitate good employment conditions and employment relations. As such, this has brought about the need to review it, so that it does not become regressive and continues to evolve into a more progressive and relevant piece of employment legislation,” he said.
“The bargaining council is an important collective bargaining forum at which unions and government meet on an equal footing to discuss and negotiate conditions of service of public officers. The council also serves as a critical platform which promotes a harmonious relationship between government, public service unions and public officers.”
Molefhi further said over the years the government and public service unions who sat at the PSBC had managed to successfully conclude negotiations which had resulted in improved conditions of service for public officers.
He said concluding successful negotiations had never been easy as it required willingness by both sides to appreciate each other’s views and needs.
During the process of reviewing the Public Service Act, he said, government continued to engage public service unions adding that there had been occasions where the two parties were unable to agree on issues affecting public officers.
“It is human nature that in a relationship it may not always be possible to agree on everything, the most important thing though is to continue engaging each other in a cordial manner and with a spirit of mutual respect,” he said.
The day’s theme was “Resilience amidst regressive labour laws and decent work deficits”.
Furthermore, Molefhi said social dialogue between the employer and trade unions was not a problem provided trade unions were not politically aligned to any political party.
He said politics clouded the public service unions’ deliberations, urging unions to desist from engaging in politics.
Molefhi said unions should deliver on their mandate and leave politics to politicians, adding that this had affected the relationship between the government and public service unions.
He urged all workers’ organisations to join the government in being resilient in the way ‘social dialogue is engaged for the collective benefit of workers.’
“Labour laws in this country are not regressing and are ever evolving to cater for the present and future,” he said.
For his part, BFTU president Bohithetswe Lentswe, said since independence the country had been seen as an epitome of democracy.
He called for the urgent resuscitation of the bargaining council.
He also raised concern over the safety of workers, calling for occupational health and safety policy.
Lentswe also raised concern over the increase of casual labour, calling for government to look into the matter and encourage companies to recruit employees on a permanent basis./Botswana Press Agency