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Unionists, Defend the principle of bargaining!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH


Reportedly, the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPPPUSU) will, in the 1st and 2nd weeks of January 2017, conduct a nationwide consultation of its structures on the 3% wage increase that was not awarded to its affiliates.


This, it would appear, is necessitated by the fact that there are reports that some public servants who are members of BOFEPPPUSU trade unions are calling for the leadership to accept the 3% wage increase and move on failing which they will resign from the BOFEPPPUSU trade unions.
Not only that. There are unconfirmed reports that some BOFEPPPUSU trade unions are losing members to Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) which, unlike BOFEPPPUSU, accepted government’s unilateral 3% wage increase.


The question is: should BOFEPPPUSU, like BOPEU, accept government’s unilateral 3% wage increase and move on or it should continue fighting in defence of the principle of bargaining? In answering this question, it is apposite that we trace the origins of the bargaining power that public servants enjoy today.


Botswana is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO). In 1997, Botswana ratified the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention 98. The convention aims at protecting workers exercising the right to organize, preventing interference in workers and employers organizations and promoting voluntary collective bargaining.


To give effect to this, and to entrench the sacrosanct principle of bargaining, Botswana, following the enactment of the Public Service Act of 2008, established the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) which, among other things, serves as a forum for bargaining between government and public service trade unions.


In terms of the constitution of the PSBC, which has been signed by both government and public service trade unions, it is obligatory for the government and public service trade unions to bargain on all issues relating to terms and conditions of service for public servants. This includes wage increments.
It, therefore, follows that before awarding a salary increment to public servants, government is obliged, by law, to exhaustively, through the PSBC, enter into meaningful bargaining with public service trade unions. These negotiations have to be conducted in good faith. Additionally, the PSBC’s function cannot be usurped, not even by presidential prerogative.   


Therefore, when in April 2015, government unilaterally granted the 3% wage increment to public servants it violated the principle of bargaining. In so doing, government not only contravened the ILO’s Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention 98, but also contravened the PSBC constitution.
Granted, as was later held by the courts, government had the right to award the increment to non-unionized public servants. It of course, as in BOPEU’s case, has the right to award the increment to those who waive their right to collective bargaining. But it simply had no such right with respect to unionized public servants who have not waived their right to collective bargaining.


It is in this regard that BOFEPPPUSU’s decision to make a court application to compel government to go back to the negotiation table is commendable for it seeks to protect a principle which is the cornerstone of trade unionism, i.e. bargaining.
If government gets its way this will mark the end of the PSBC and the principle of collective bargaining. This, coupled with the declaration of teaching as an essential service and, therefore, not entitled to strike as well as the impending amendments to the Public Service Act, 2008, will effectively render the Public Service Act, 2008 moribund.


Today it is the unilateral wage increment, but tomorrow it could be worse. If government has its way this time around what will stop it from unilaterally varying terms and conditions of service relating to sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave, rest days, hours of work e.t.c in future?
In my view, nothing will stop it especially if it realizes that union members easily give in. The power relations between the employer and the employee are not always resolved through the courts. Often times their resolution involves strategy and tactics.


So far, government has the urge in terms of the strategy and tactics battle, especially the divide and rule tactic. First was BOPEU’s disaffiliation from BOFEPPPUSU. Second was awarding the 3% to non-unionized public servants. Third was BOPEU’s acceptance of the 3%. Fourth is an attempt to render the PSBC toothless.


The question is: can you, as a trade unionist, allow yourself to be part of the trade union movement that allowed government to decimate trade unionism to this extend?  I am neither an employee nor a trade union member, but I feel I cannot stand by and watch government reversing the labour relations gains we have made since 2008.


Clearly, government is on a war path to punish public servants for the 2011 public sector strike. It has reduced public servants’ industrial action power by taking away the right to strike from teachers, among others. It has tabled amendments to the Public Service Act, 2008 which, if passed as they most likely will, will effectively take us to pre-2008.


Many of these proposed amendments are targeted at the PSBC. An example is the enactment of rules of procedure to be followed in disciplinary matters by the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), and not the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). Not only that. There is a proposed amendment that disputes, or appeals thereto, between public servants and the employer will be referred to the Commissioner of Labour in terms of the Trade Disputes Act, 2003 instead of the PSBC.

Government also intends to amend the Public Service Act, 2008 to the effect that the General Secretary of the PSBC shall be appointed by the PSP from amongst employees of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and that only Public Officers can be representatives of trade unions admitted to the PSBC.


It is also government’s intention to amend the Public Service Act, 2008 to the effect that government can confer a benefit on an employee notwithstanding ongoing negotiations as well as to provide the that recognition will entitle a union to one seat at the PSBC. Clearly, government has targeted the PSBC. If public servants allow government to succeed in relegating the PSBC to obscurity and thereby taking away the principle of collective bargaining, they will have allowed government to take us to pre- 1997. History will certainly not forgive public servants for such an abdication of duty.


In fact, considering how well the world has progressed, government’s action will take us to the period between 1920 and the 1970s when fascist governments prohibited free bargaining. Instead, they compelled both employers and employees to take part in government-established structures that controlled all decisions concerning labour relations.   


It is incontrovertible that the 3% wage increment will make a difference, albeit insignificant, in public servants’ lives, but is it worth the sacrifice of losing a principle as cardinal to trade unionism as collective bargaining?


In any event, the court case on the scope of the PSBC will be heared in February 2017. Public servants have endured the lack of a wage increment for about ten months now. They surely can endure an additional three months or so, can’t they?
True trade unionists cannot abandon their unions of choice for a mere 3% wage increase nor can they join a trade union which is not truly of their choice only to get a 3% wage increase. There is certainly more to trade unionism than that.  
Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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