17 December, 2003

Opposition activists criticise labour laws

Opposition party officials have charged that labour laws in Botswana are draconian, repressive and anti trade unionist. Botswana National Front's (BNF) chairperson, Klaas Motshidisi, said that a capitalist government that did not have the interests of workers formulated Botswana labour laws. He claimed that though Botswana had ratified a number of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, the government had however not implemented them. According to him, 37 years after gaining independence conventions such as the right to collective bargaining were not applicable to Botswana workers. He furthermore noticed that the Botswana constitution empowered the government to control trade unions while the employer was protected.

A Botswana Congress Party (BCP) representative, Samuel Mphoyakgosi, cited some policies that he labelled as repressive to workers. He contended that there is no law compelling an employer to reinstate an employee who had been unfairly dismissed. The only alternative, he said, is “for the industrial court to beg the employer to pay the employee wages for six months.” He said collective bargaining laws are inadequate in the country. He also expressed concern that even where government has put in place structures to address grievances of workers such as the establishment of district labour office, these offices are understaffed. Thus labour grievances were not attended to on time.

University of Botswana lecturer, Elmon Tafa, described Botswana labour laws as draconian though the constitution of Botswana guarantees freedom and rights to individuals and organisations. He said that despite the fact that Botswana is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human rights which guarantees the right to work, there is no place in the constitution where the government talks about the right to employment. Tafa was also concerned that the government has introduced laws, which are designed to divide labour movements. (Daily News)

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