Chapter 1:

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In November 1997, the Government of Botswana announced that it had ratified Convention 151 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The text of Convention 151 is attached as Appendix A and a summary of its effect is attached as Appendix B.

According to a press report in the Gazette newspaper dated 26 November 1997, the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs the Honourable Mr. Bahiti Temane M. P. announced that under this Convention:

    '... civil servants will now have the right to organise themselves into unions instead of associations as is the case at present and can negotiate with their employer.
    According to Mr. Temane, in the case of deadlock in negotiations, the workers will have recourse to industrial action or strike.
    The Minister however said that this right does not cover essential service workers who will have a special dispensation to address their concerns or grievances. He also said that there would be a cut off point as to which government employees can belong to unions to take care of instances where a civil servant is also part of management.
    "The ratification of this Convention is not in itself an end but a means to an end. What it means is that a great deal of work has to be done by all the stakeholder to review the laws that have been affected by the changes" the minister said.'

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Since Government has now declared that civil servants will have the right to organise themselves into trade unions instead of associations, it appears that three categories of government employees will soon become eligible to join trade unions:

  • Those employed in terms of the Public Service Act, the majority of whom are currently represented by the Botswana Civil Service Association (BCSA);
  • Those employed in terms of the Unified Teaching Service Act, the majority of whom are currently represented by the Botswana Teachers Union (the BTU, which in spite of its name is not a registered trade union), the Botswana Federation of Secondary School Teachers (BOFESETE), or by the Botswana Primary School Teachers Association (BOPRITA); and
  • Those employed in terms of the Unified Local Government Service Act, the majority of whom are currently represented by Botswana Unified Local Government Service Association (BULGASA).

Purpose of this study
This booklet has been commissioned by the Botswana Office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in order to sensitise members of these public sector staff associations about the legal issues that will arise if their public sector staff association seeks registration as trade unions. Specific issues to be addressed include:

  • The effect of trade union legislation on public sector staff associations, and in particular the provisions relating to the essential services, and the thorny issue of managers and trade union membership
  • The comparative advantages and disadvantages of public sector staff associations registering as trade unions
  • The legal procedures, which should be followed in order for public sector staff associations to register as trade unions
  • The type of consultative / negotiating structure that will be appropriate for public sector trade unions

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Juni 1999

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