Brought together by the IndustriALL Sub-Saharan Africa Union Building project, the three IndustriALL affiliates in Botswana met on 10-11 May in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss, develop and adopt their work plans for the next 3 years.
The three unions are the BPWU in energy, the BDWU in the diamond and the BMWU in the mining sector. IndustriALL particularly welcomed back the latter - the 10,000-member strong Botswana Mineworkers’ Union - into its membership, after a few years’ absence.
Many of the key challenges mentioned were similar for the three unions in Botswana, including the pervading lack of education of rank-and-file members and the need to continue to work on detailed policies and careful planning. Another often mentioned - and major - problem are the high court case costs in Botswana. Employers seem to be all too happy to bring unions to court, thereby avoiding short-term solutions and continuing disputes over years.
A sustainability issue, but also a goal in itself, is the identified need by all unions to engage in active organising. Possible organising targets include a few new mines across the country. Another surfacing issue, as elsewhere in the world, is that of precarious work. With the exception (for the moment at least) of the diamond sector, companies in Botswana are increasingly engaging in outsourcing their work and their workforce - and they do that massively. One of the ways discussed to deal with this is for the unions to further broaden out their scope, including by changing constitutions, so that they can cover a wider range of workers, making it easier to organise the precariously employed workers.
The meeting ended with the creation of the Botswana IndustriALL National Council, an effort aimed at (much) closer cooperation between the IndustriALL affiliates at national level. This new platform will look into, among other, joint campaigning, solidarity support and exchange of information. It will also act as an interface with IndustriALL Global Union.
Kenny Mogane, project coordinator for the IndustriALL Union Building project, said that “this new council will be a great step forward for workers’ struggles in Botswana, as, together, the unions will be able to achieve much more”.