13 April 2011

Botswana: Unions targeting border posts during strike over Easter holidays

update (17 June 2011): Botswana's government Wednesday threatened to fire public workers who failed to return to the job after their two-month strike was called off this week, but the director of public service management, Festinah Bakwena, could not say how many workers had failed to report for duty.
The government has already fired about 3,000 health workers who ignored a court order to return to the job. Unions have demanded their reinstatement, but government has agreed only to consider their applications if they apply for their job again.
update: GabzFM from Gaborone is reporting about various student protests in Kanye (Seepapitso Senior) and in Good Hope.
According to GabzFM's tweets, students of Seepapitso Senior in Kanye have clashed with the police after the school caught fire which is believed to have been started by the students.

update (16 June 2011): More than 200 workers protested on Monday (13 June 2011) in the capital Gaborone against their union's (Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union) decision to suspend the strike. A similar protest was reported in the second city of Francistown. Striking public service workers in Francistown have vehemently opposed their leadership to suspend the strike until a special congress decides otherwise. No protests were reported on Tuesday and public services appeared to have returned to normal.
Botswana's government on Wednesday (15 June 2011) threatened to fire public workers who failed to return to the job after their two-month strike was called off this week. Botswana's central bank Governor Linah Mohohlo told the media: "We do not want to talk about the effects of the strike as yet but definitely it will impact on the growth of the economy this year. This might reverse the gains of economic recovery recorded so far."

update (15 June 2011): Hundreds of public servants gathered at the Gaborone Secondary School (GSS) grounds on Monday, 13 June 2011, despite the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) decision to suspend the public sector strike.
Gaborone police arrested 25 of them for allegedly gathering unlawfully after they had refused to disperse from the GSS grounds.

update (14 June 2011): The decision by the leadership of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) to suspend the strike has been received with mixed feelings by members. Many striking public service workers who were on Monday expected to end their eight-week strike failed to return to work and continued to protest. 

update (10 June 2011): Botswana's 90,000 Botswana public service workers will go back to work from Monday (13 June 2011) after suspending eight weeks of industrial action over pay. Reuters is qouting Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union spokesman Goretetse Kekgonegile saying that the unions had agreed to the suspend the action in order to "restrategise" after clashes between striking workers and police this week.

update (09 June 2011): Bloomberg is reporting that some striking state workers clashed with police and broke shop windows in Gaborone on 08 June 2011 and is quoting Goretetse Kekgonegile, spokesman for the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU), saying that Union leaders will travel around the country to try make sure the strike doesn’t become violent.

update (08 June 2011): Botswana will allow more than 1 400 health workers to re-apply for their jobs after they were sacked for ignoring a court order to end a strike, but won't give them a guarantee that they will be re-hired. [13:55 UTC+2] The Commissioner of the Botswana Police Service (BPS), Thebeyame Tsimako, has denied the shooting of three people and detention of children during the public service strike.

update (07 June 2011): A video named "Strike gone wild in Francistown Botswana" was uploaded to youtube earlier today. Does anyone know what is going on there? There is police in the streets chasing off protesters (?), you can hear what I believe might be gun shots. Anyone got any updates?
[13:50 UTC +2] Reports from F/town say striking workers have barricaded roads with burning tyres. via twitter @TerriBMap "Live from Francistown The strike is out of control, burning of tyres, stones on the roads, police all over & teargas" and "Ramatlabama border allegedly closed..watch Mochudi join in very soon"; via @Gabzfmnews  Lobatse border closed as protesters match on the Botswana side. [16:05] The video footage showing protesters in Francistown getting chased by the police has just been removed by the user...

update (06 June 2011): Botswana’s government agreed to resume talks with the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) to end a strike by state employees that is in its eighth week. According to state-owned newspaper "Daily News", the agreement came after the Botswana Council of Churches called both sides to a church service on Sunday.

update (03 June 2011): The International Monetary Fund urged Botswana's government to cut its wage bill, as public workers are staging a seven-week strike to demand an increase.

update (01 June 2011): Botswana's government has ordered striking public service workers to return to the job, rejecting their demands to reinstate approx 1,400 fired employees and scrap a "no work no pay" policy, Festinah Bakwena, head of the public service directorate, said earlier today.
"We will only go back to work with those that we started with, so they must re-instate our comrades and do away with their policy of no work no pay," said Goretetse Kekgonegile, spokesman for the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU). 

update (30 May 2011): The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) has accepted a 3% pay rise and called of the country-wide strike in case the government agrees on certain conditions. Botswana's civil workers will return to work if:
  • all sacked employees are reinstated
  • the pay rise will get divided using a pyramid structure > priority given to lower income earners
  • "no work no pay" rule gets suspended
A date for the increase has not yet been set.

update (26 May 2011): According to several media reports, the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), which represents businesses Botswana, is now mediating in the six-week dispute between the government and state workers.

update (25 May 2011): Patients and schoolchildren are emerging as the biggest losers from a strike by public service workers in Botswana which is entering its sixth week. The rich and middle classes were less affected because they were not dependent on government handouts and mostly used private schools and doctors.
The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Ditshwanelo) released a statement noting that the stalemate between government officials and union leaders had already led to the loss of lives due to the absence of adequate medical staff at health facilities.
The Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) said the protracted strike had also had a negative impact on the economy, causing serious cash flow problems for many companies that relied on government orders for goods and services.
Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) publicity secretary, Goretetse Kekgonegile, says the Federation is in the process of setting up a Trust Fund to help its members to overcome the effects of the strike.
In the meantime Botswana's government has pulled out of wage talks with 90,000 striking civil servants, raising the stakes in an unprecedented bout of industrial action that has shaken the ruling party's 45-year grip on power. 

update (24 May 2011): As over 50,000 public workers go without a month's salary for the first time in Botswana's history, it has emerged that the public sector unions had not put in place measures to immediately pay the workers in the event of such an eventuality.

update (23 May 2011): Botswana's President Ian Khama has reiterated Botswana government's position that it cannot afford public-sector salary increase now as it is grappling with a budget deficit. Public servants in Botswana are on an indefinite industrial strike in support of their demand for a 16% pay rise. The strike has a had negative effect on public services and this has hampered private sector businesses that rely on those services.

update (20 May 2011): Most of Botswana's clinics have closed and the main hospital in the capital, Gaborone, is barely functioning due to a civil service strike over salaries.
The sackings of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and cleaners who had joined the five-week strike in defiance of a court order, have prompted nurses and doctors who had remained at work to join the industrial action.

update (17 May 2011): Botswana's government closed all primary and secondary schools on Monday after violent clashes between police and students angry over a strike by teachers and other public workers. The government of Botswana has fired all "essential" health workers who defied a court order to join an indefinite strike by public-sector employees, an official said today (17 May 2011).
Tipp: The impact of the strike on ordinary Batswana

update (10 May 2011): The Department of Wildlife and National Parks, whose efforts to control the movement of wild animals (which often stray into nearby villages) and fight poaching in the national parks, and to collect revenue from foreign tourists, have been seriously disrupted or are bound to be disrupted if the strike does not end quickly.
With the Chobe River overflowing and the risk of flooding in Satau and Parakarungu, one can only imagine what would happen if the Water Affairs employees, monitoring the water levels everyday, joined the strike.
Chobe District - the Immigration staff members are still at their posts. Kasane is located at the confluence of Zimbabwe-Botswana, Zambia-Botswana and Namibia-Botswana borders. 

update (06 May 2011): Botswana’s state worker unions have agreed to extend a strike for another five days after failing to agree on a pay deal with the government. The unions also agreed to engage in a ‘go-slow’ after returning to work at the end of the strike. The unions are now on their last two days of total withdrawal of labour with a go- slow pencilled from next week. The treasurer of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions was quoted saying: "We will only go back to work and stop the strike when we have been given something. If we abandon and go back to work what would have been the purpose of downing tools in the first place?"

update (29 April 2011): Botswana's trade unions claim that about 80% of the civil service has joined in the strike. > The state is Botswana's largest employer.
Unionists said the government has redeployed members of the Botswana Defence Force, the Botswana Police and volunteers to keep services running. The Botswana Red Cross Society has also been roped in to assist in clinics and hospitals.

update (28 April 2011): Botswana doctors, nurses and other essential workers who last week joined an ongoing public service strike returned to work Wednesday in obedience to a court order.

update (27 April 2011):  The dispute over the strike-related replacement of labour between the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the government over the replacement of striking workers reached the Industrial Court over the Easter holidays. Industrial Court Judge Tebogo Maruping made an interim order that stopped government from further replacing labour.

update (26 April 2011): Commenting on an incident in which Union marshals rescued a security agent from the Criminal Investigating Department from an angry crowd of union members, the regional secretary of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), Tshekatsheko Lekang, accused the government of breaking the strike agreement not to intimidate union members and alleged that the government was trying to break the strike.
Botswana's "Daily News", "BTV" and "Radio Botswana" have been accused of providing a forum for top government to spread propaganda while snubbing union leaders and denying them the opportunity to present their side of the story.
The current strike is expected to last until 29 April 2011.

update (21 April 2011): Botswana's government is going to court, because workers are violating an agreement to ensure essential medical and other services through their strike for higher wages.

update (20 April 2011): The impact of the public service strike that started on Monday is threatening to paralyse government.
According to The Gazette, on Monday soldiers were deployed at most border posts to replace immigration and Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) officials who had gone on strike. It is reported that at the Ramokgwebana border post soldiers were seen stamping the passports of people who were entering or leaving Botswana. 

update (19 April 2011): The borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia are expected to be severely affected during the current 10-day strike, with only one border official at each entry point. Most hospitals, clinics and immigration offices are also manned by skeleton staff only. (30% of essential services personnel (countrywide) shall remain working. This means that for every 10 employees, three shall remain to provide services.)

update II (18 April 2011): More than 90,000 public servants in Botswana including nurses, teachers and customs and immigration officials began a 10-day strike on the 18 April 2010 in a dispute over pay. Assistant Commissioner Christopher Mbulawa, Public Relations Officer of the Botswana Police Services  has confirmed to The Gazette that the police will not use force against the striking public servants.

update (18 April 2011): via Bloomberg.com - Botswana’s government won’t pay state employees who begin a strike over pay today, Festinah Bakwena, director of the Department of Public Service Management, said on state television onm 17 April 2011. About 90,000 people are expected to join the strike (teachers, nurses and other state workers).
Interesting article on mmegi.bw - How the strike will affect the country

update II (15 April 2011): via Bloomberg.com - State workers in Botswana will start a 10-day strike on April 18 in support of demands for increased pay, the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions said. “The negotiations broke down and the parties declared a deadlock,” Andrew Motsamai, secretary general of the government workers federation, told a meeting in the capital, Gaborone, late yesterday.

update (15 April 2011): The Directorate of Public Service Management director has appealed to public service employees to be patient with government and "see what happens by September". DPSM director Festina Bakwena made the appeal in a bid to halt the planned April 18-29 nationwide strike by members of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) over lack of salary increment over the past three years. No reaction from the Unions have been reported so far.

Several news resources are reporting that the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) have threatened to embark on a 10-day strike in Botswana starting on Monday 18 April to 29 April 2011. BOFEPUSU is made up of various public sector unions, such as the Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU).

View Botswana border post strike 2011 in a larger map

Goretetse Kekgonegile, Publicity Secretary of BOFEPUSU, told the media that Botswana's border posts Ramokgwebana, Ramatlabama, Tlokweng and Martin’s Drift will be targeted in the public sector strike. He furthermore said: "We want to withdraw labour from all the border posts. This will impact negatively on the government as there will be no people arriving or leaving the country." The strike will paralyze services at the border posts especially during the Easter holidays.

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