- Want durable responses to pandemic
- Decry being left out of social dialogue
- Want workers’ rights improved
Following assessments made after the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Trade Union Confederation and (ITUC) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) have called for improved workers’ rights and a new social contract to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
This is contained in a newly published Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Botswana report titled “A Trade Union Focus on the SDGs” that emphasises workers’ need for durable responses to the pandemic. “The Government of Botswana’s initial response to the crisis included a short-term economic and humanitarian relief package in the months of April to May in 2020,” says the report. “State of emergency regulations barred industrial action for 18 months and placed a moratorium on retrenchments; (but) employment adjustments and cuts still occured during this period.
“In October 2020, Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) was approved by Parliament. It encompasses a range of measures for a more sustainable and diverse economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERTP extends wage protection in sectors particularly affected by the crisis, as well as support to enterprises and employers, including tax breaks and guaranteed loans.” In the report, trade unions call upon the government to further protect jobs and incomes by means of an employment insurance fund as a part of the country’s employment policies.
Unions say national health insurance should be established in dialogue with social partners to increase medical aid coverage. “Trade unions ask for a human-centred approach to be prioritised in line with the ILO Centenary Declaration,” the reports states. “The crisis has also underscored the need for statutory entitlements during termination, which should be treated differently from conflictual disputes in court.”
It says Botswana’s National Development Plan 11 (NDP 11) and Vision 2036 for sustainable economic development are aligned to SDGs and that all 17 SDGs have been adopted. As a result, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) is responsible for implementation the SDGs.
However, the report notes that trade unions decry being left out of social dialogues about the country’s socio-economic development. “The MFED holds information sessions but does not involve trade unions as social partners,” it states. “Dialogue with social partners is restricted to the Decent Work Country Programme, led by the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development. “The recovery plan (ERTP) and National Employment Policy, recently adopted by Parliament, are two recent examples where trade unions submitted workers’ input and suggestions but were not fully consulted during policy development.”