Breakthrough in 6-week Botswana state strike


Botswana public sector unions said they had conditionally accepted a 3 percent pay rise but a 6-week strike that has shaken the ruling party’s 45-year grip on power would continue until all demands were met.

A spokesman for the Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) said the government must reinstate 1,500 sacked workers as part of a final settlement, and lift a “no work, no pay” policy imposed to try to end the industrial action.

The agreed average pay rise is a fraction of the 16 percent first demanded by the 90,000 state workers, and less even than the 5 percent on offer from the government of the landlocked southern African country, the world’s biggest diamond producer, Reuters reports.

However, unions said the increase must be staggered to ensure that those at the lowest end of the scale received a larger pay increase.
“We want to make sure those who earn less get more. The least paid workers are likely to get as much as 12 percent he said,” BOFEPUSU spokesman Goretetse Kekgonegile said.

Even though he added that the strike would continue, the offer is a major breakthrough in the unprecedented 6-week bout of industrial action that forced schools and hospitals to close and unleashed a torrent of criticism against President Ian Khama.

Son of Botswana’s founding father, the UK-trained former general had been portrayed as insensitive to the needs of Botswana’s 1.8 million people and opposition politicians, scenting blood, had called for him to go.

However, Khama insisted that the lingering effects of the 2008 global financial crisis meant Botswana could not afford anything above 5 percent, and he would not risk the country’s reputation for fiscal discipline by increasing borrowing.

The government is expected to respond to the union offer on Tuesday, raising hopes that the strike, which has shaken the reputation of one of Africa’s wealthier and better-run countries, will soon be over.