Dumelang Batswana Betsho,
Today marks the International Labour Day which is celebrated and observed in many parts of the world. The origin of this day goes as far back as the 1860’s at the height of the industrial revolution, when workers in the United States of America launched a vigorous and sustained campaign to improve their conditions of employment.
During that period, many workplaces were characterised by exploitative practices such as forced labour, extremely long hours of work, rampant child labour, an unsafe and unhealthy working environment, and absence of defined job descriptions, amongst others.
It was not until the 1st of May 1886 that workers, through their relentless effort to fight injustice, made a breakthrough in the attainment of better working conditions, more especially the eight hour work day. Since that time, the 1st of May has been celebrated as Labour Day worldwide.
In this respect, I am grateful to join workers in the celebration of this Labour Day, and wish them a happy and restful day as they reflect on their contribution to social and economic development, now, and in the coming years.
As you are all aware, we are now living in different times. Certainly for Botswana, we can take pride in the noticeable progress that has been made in labour reforms to eradicate child labour, forced labour, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, including the adoption of an 8 hour work day. Substantial progress has also been made in the promotion of workers’ rights as evidenced by the ratification of various international labour conventions and instruments.
The Theme for the 2018 International Labour Day is “Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Advancement”. This theme is a clarion call for workers to interrogate their role and participation in pursuit of social and economic development at the global, regional and national levels.
The theme augurs well for the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal Number 8, which aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. It is also relevant to the National Vision 2036 Pillar 1 on Sustainable Economic Development, which is underpinned by diversified, inclusive and sustainable growth driven by high levels of productivity.
For the achievement of this pillar, the National Development Plan 11 priorities of economic growth, employment creation and poverty eradication remain pertinent and important catalysts.
In this regard, my Government is committed to deepening the scope of engagement with workers and employers with a view to creating a conducive environment for the realisation of these noble intentions. While the process of reviewing labour laws is on-going, it should not be seen as an end in itself.
More importantly, these efforts must result in a productive workforce capable of generating national wealth which will lend itself to enhanced remuneration and conditions of service for workers. This is a mammoth task that can only be achieved through active engagement and meaningful dialogue between the employer and the employee.
Workplace issues are better addressed through Tripartite structures, being Government, Business and Labour, and other relevant bodies established for that purpose. Experience has taught us that engagement outside the said structures can be detrimental to workers’ rights and relationships. In the business sector, I expect fruitful and mutually respectful engagement between employers and employees across all sectors, such as agriculture, mining, services, retail, tourism, construction, and many others.
I am specifically referring to the politicization of workers’ issues. Let us avoid unnecessary influences that could contaminate the cordial and symbiotic relationships that are capable of taking this country to greater heights for the benefit of current and future generations.
Bagaetsho, a letsatsi le le ketekiwe ka kagiso.