The State Of Industrial Relations In Botswana: Collective Bargaining In Crisis
This paper explores the state of industrial relations in Botswana in the context of public sector collective bargaining as a structure of mediation and power relations. Previous research on Botswana trade unions has focused more on the workers strikes, without specific attention to the structure and process of collective bargaining. This paper fills this gap by examining efforts of trade unions to use collective bargaining as a platform to raise demands, and in the process to arouse workers consciousness. The authors argue that, while collective bargaining is a useful conciliatory structure, it can also be injurious to workers struggles if it is not backed by real collective power from rank-and-file workers to put pressure on the negotiation. A history of Botswana labour movement is outlined in relation to the economic and political background. The multiple roles played by the state as enactor of labour laws, as an economic agent and employer are outlined. To help appreciate the tussle between the key main players in public sector bargaining relevant Botswana labour laws are examined in light of the International Labour Standards (ILO) fundamental conventions (see www.ilo.org). In conclusion the critical role of trade unions as agents of change to promote workers’ rights and industrial democracy is recognised. However, the researchers posit that their ability to navigate power structures and to win depends on the balance of class forces.