Chapter 5:
The Procedure for a Public Sector Staff Association to Register as a Trade Union

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From a legal point of view, there are two distinct sets of procedural issues which a public sector staff association must address if it decides the register as a trade union. Firstly, there are the procedures laid down in its present Constitution, which must be properly followed in order to obtain the consent of members to any change of status of the Association. Secondly, there are procedures laid down in the Trade Unions and Employers' Organizations Act [Cap. 48:01] which should be observed when application is made for registration of a trade union.

Procedures laid down in the Trade Unions and Employers' Organizations Act
Section 6 (1) of this Act requires that within 28 days immediately following formation of a trade union, application to register the trade union must be made to the Registrar of Trade Unions. The application must be made on Form A1 of the Schedule to the Trade Unions and Employers' Organizations Regulations [S. I. 105 of 1984], and must be accompanied by:

    (a) The application fee, which is currently P10.
    (b) A copy of the resolution forming the union, authenticated by the principal secretary of the union
    (c) Three printed or typed copies of the proposed union's constitution, each copy similarly authenticated
    (d) A list of the full names of all the members of the union
    (e) The name, postal address and location of the union's principal office
    (f) The date of its formation
    (g) The titles, full names, ages, postal and residential addresses, and occupations of those officers of the union who have signed the application

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    (h) The name of every employer or industry from which the union seeks legal recognition. Particulars must also be given of every negotiating body or branch for which the union seeks recognition.

The duties of the Registrar of Trade Unions
Upon receipt of an application for registration, the Registrar must publish a notice in the Government Gazette, calling upon any person who objects to the registration to notify the Registrar of the objection, and the grounds for the objection. Before deciding whether to register a trade union, the Registrar should consider any objections notified to him, and make such enquiries, as he thinks fit. A certificate of registration issued by the Registrar is conclusive evidence that the union is properly registered in accordance with the Act.

The grounds on which the Registrar may refuse to register a trade union are stated in section 10 as follows:

  • There is an existing registered union, which the Registrar considers to be sufficiently representative of the interests of workers in the industry or trade, which the new union is seeking to represent
  • The principal objects are not in accordance with the Act (section 2 requires that the objects should 'include the regulation of relations between employees and employers or employers' organizations or between employees and employees')
  • The name is the same as that of another registered union, or so similar to such name as to be likely to deceive or mislead, or is otherwise misleading or undesirable. A refusal to register on this ground is effective until such time as the name is altered to one that is acceptable to the Registrar.
  • The union is used or has been used for an unlawful purpose
  • The union's funds are being used or have been used unlawfully (such as where funds are being used for a purpose not authorised by its constitution or by the Act)
  • The union's accounts are not being kept in accordance with the Act

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  • Within five years immediately before the date of the application, an officer of the union has been convicted of an offence under this Act, or under the Trade Disputes Act, or any offence involving fraud or dishonesty, which led to a sentence of imprisonment
  • Any of its officers is not a citizen of Botswana (although a special application to the Minister may be made to exempt the union from this provision)
  • The union has not complied with the provisions of the Act (or regulations made under the Act)
  • The union's constitution does not comply with the Schedule, or is unlawful (see below)

If the Registrar refuses to register a union, he should notify the applicants in writing of the grounds for refusal, and the union is deemed to be dissolved from the date of receipt of such notification (except where an appeal against the refusal is lodged, in which event dissolution occurs on the date when the appeal is dismissed or abandoned). An appeal against the Registrar's decision to refuse registration can be made to the High Court.

The Union's Constitution
Section 34 (2) of the Trade Unions and Employers' Organizations Act provides that the constitution of a registered trade union should contain provisions dealing with the matters specifically mentioned in the Schedule to the Act, which include the following:

  • The union's name, postal address and the location of its principal office
  • The union's objects, the purposes for which its funds may be spent, the benefits to which members may become entitled, and the fines or forfeiture to which they may be subjected
  • The manner of amending the constitution
  • The appointment and removal of its officers and executive committee
  • The custody of its funds, the officers so responsible, and its annual audit

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  • The times when its books of account and list of members are open to inspection as required by section 45
  • The manner of its dissolution and the provision for disposal of its assets
  • The amount of subscriptions and fees payable by members
  • Any fund for any contributory provident, welfare or pension scheme
  • The appointment or election and removal of trustees
  • The right of members to vote, to call for a secret ballot and the procedure for nomination to negotiating bodies
  • The arrangements for explaining the contents of the balance sheet to members
  • The extent to which the union may control the activities of its branches
  • The procedure for amalgamating with other trade unions, and joining a federation of trade unions
  • If members are working in more than one trade, the provision for protection and promotion of members' sectional industrial interests.

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

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