Chapter 6:
A strategy for public sector staff associations to adopt in the event that they decide to register as trade unions

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

  • Those employed in terms of the Public Service Act, the majority of whom are currently represented by 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).

The Framework for Strategy Development:
Historically, there has been comparatively little cooperation or consultation between most of the public sector staff associations. This is surprising, because each of the associations has in the past faced similar frustrations. Each association currently has a weak bargaining position, and is merely invited by Government to participate in a consultative process. Clearly, each association now faces similar challenges and uncertainties since Government has ratified ILO Convention 151. It is this coincidence of interests and concerns that provides the rationale for each association to reexamine its relationship with the other associations. There has never before been

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a time like the present, when all the associations have a common and pressing need to develop a new strategic relationship with each other.

The major problem facing all of the public sector staff associations is the potential effect of the rules on union membership described in chapter 3 above. A further common concern is the possibility that Government may extend the list of essential services to include some of the services performed by members of the associations. Another common concern is that members of the public sector staff associations are currently unable to take their grievances with Government to the Industrial Court, which is a court of fairness as well as a court of law. This puts public sector employees at a significant disadvantage in comparison with members of private sector unions (note that Government industrial class employees are also able to take their grievances to the Industrial Court). To change any of these rules will require amending legislation, and each of the public sector staff associations shares a common interest in lobbying Government to introduce such legislation.

The most appropriate forum where these common interests and concerns can be discussed would be a meeting of the association executives convened under the auspices of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions. Although the outcome of such a meeting is difficult to predict, the opportunity to discuss common concerns and explore common ground must not be missed.

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

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