MAY DAY 2014 IN BOTSWANA
The labour movement celebrates workers day tomorrow In a state of flux over which direction to go following the historic strike in April 8th, 2011 which lasted for nearly 9 weeks.
Relations with government are at an all time low with negotiations over salary increases for civil servants stalled at the Bargaining Council following the government’s unilateral announcement that it is awarding non-unionised public servants 4 percent. In the past President Khama has been accused of unilaterally announcing government’s decision on how much it will give civil servants at kgotla meetings, thus effectively bypassing the bargaining council.
The irked public service has threatened to take the matter to court as it feels that the Bargaining Council has now effectively by-passed by government and says it is a ‘purposeless’ body.
In the run up to the general elections in October, trade unions have strongly urged their members not to vote for MPs from the ruling BDP seen as being anti-labour.
This could open up a can of worms as trade unions members are from the political divide and include both supporters of the ruling party and the opposition parties.
In the recent past union leaders have been perceived as increasingly calling for voters to throw out the ruling party in the next elections and have been accused of advocating for ‘regime change’.
The labour movement has two choices:
To openly align itself with the opposition parties and risk causing rifts in its membership between those who support the ruling party and those who support the opposition. One possible outcome could be the formation in the country of different trade unions aligned with different parties.
In Britain, the labour movement has traditionally and openly been aligned with the Labour Party.
On the other hand, it will have a tough battle with government which will try to fight a tendency for the labour movement to be politicised. Civil servants are not allowed to be politically involved and recent statements by labour movement leaders led to the government withdrawing from the Bargaining Council accusing them of making ‘political statements’. It remains to be seen whether the movement will be able to, or event want to , play a more political role by openly urging its members to vote the ruling party out of power. It is unclear about the legal implications of such a move.
In the run up to the elections those involved in the labour movement will increasing find that as the Chinese put it, “they are living in interesting times ! “