Botswana education unions uphold the right to effective collective bargaining

published 16 June 2017 updated 19 June 2017

In response to the government’s clampdown on workers’ rights, the Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Unions and Education International took their fight to the global stage at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

“TheTrade Disputes Act makes teachers and support staff within the teaching service, and almost the whole economy, an essential service, hence prohibiting them from resorting to a strike action,” said Tobakani Rari, General Secretary of the Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Unions (BOSETU), of the government’s harmful policy. “This undermines the bargaining power of teachers and support staff who are therefore at risk that their working conditions will deteriorate - which will also affect their morale.”

On June 14, he delivered a powerful message on behalf of Education International (EI) at the ILO Conference Committee on Application of Standards during the examination of the case against Botswana for violations of Convention 87. The BOSETU is an affiliate of EI.

He further explained that the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has stated on many occasions that teachers do not fall within the definition of essential services and cited the jurisprudence from the ILO 2012 General Survey on fundamental conventions.

He also condemned the government for the absence of meaningful consultations on the draft amendments to the Public Services Act despite assurances given by the Minister of Labour and other government officials and indeed to a recent ILO technical mission.

The Conference Committee concluded by calling on the government to ensure the Trade Disputes Act is in full conformity with Convention No 87 and to develop a time-bound action plan together with the social partners in order to implement its recommendations. The Committee further requested the government to report progress to the Committee of Experts before November 2017.

“The government should really be embarrassed for having taken the country this far to the extent of finding themselves being grilled at the 106th Conference,” Tobkani Rari added. “This is a victory for the workers and for democracy and the rule of law in Botswana”, he concluded.

Education International with the support of the ILO/ACTRAV is working with its five affiliates in Botswana on a project to support an advocacy and action plan to promote the implementation of the fundamental ILO Conventions in the country.