|5. May 2009
Hardly a Murmur On May Day!
To most citizens, this was just a long weekend and nothing more.
However, workers gathered at Maun and in Gaborone to examine their fate under the current economic recession.
Workers the world over have found it increasingly important not just to improve the working conditions of the employed, but to get work for the unemployed.
Unemployment is rising in many countries. And those who are employed are facing retrenchment. As the numbers of the unemployed grow, labour conditions for those in employment deteriorate as those looking for jobs are prepared to accept inhuman working conditions.
In the meantime, as the neo-liberal agenda continues its march across the world, even those who are in employment face the prospect of being 'casualised', as investors want to extend profits by reducing those workers who derive benefits such as medical covers and pensions.
We further face the spectre of government slowly drifting into the paradigm of the corporate sector as far as labour relations are concerned. Civil servants are under danger from being dismissed for various reasons, which come as a new paradigm is imposed on the civil service.
However, the major characteristic of the local labour environment is that as many more switch to the non-formal sector or are casualised the informal sector will swell.
However, so far, both the informal sector and the minor private sector outside of para-statals and major corporations, workers remain un-unionised.
Lastly, it is important to note that a public sector federation has broken away from the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions. Up to now, we have not been furnished with valid reasons why such an organisation was formed.
Those advocates of the new federation are yet to account to the public as to how they thought this new federation would serve workers' rights beyond what the BFTU could offer. And most importantly, they are yet to tell this society what was so terminally wrong with BFTU that they could not ever envisage fixing it.
This will remain a blight on not just the new federation but also the overall labour movement. The labour movement must recognise these challenges. This country requires a robust and alert labour movement that can make labour issues an agenda not just for every first day of May but for the whole year.