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| Khushboo Gupta-2 | 20153024 | LLIR |

Analysis of a major Strike/ Industrial Relations conflict in the past 10 years


Industrial relations refers to processes and outcomes involving employment relationships. Frequently the term is used in a
narrower sense, for employment relationships involving collective representation of employees in the form of a labor
union or employee association. At the other extreme, industrial relations has been defined as "all aspects of people at
work," but there are clearly some aspects of people at work that entail highly technical subjects (e.g., industrial
hygiene, ergonomics) which are not normally regarded as falling within the mainstream of industrial relations study.
As an academic subject area, industrial relations is often defined as an interdisciplinary field of applied study. This
conception recognizes that employment relationships entail practical problems and other phenomena that transcend any
one traditional discipline (e.g., economics). To fully appreciate the multifaceted nature of many industrial relations issues,
one must draw from a variety of perspectives, including economics, psychology, sociology, political science, and law, among
others. For example, employee compensation issues may be usefully addressed in terms of economic theory, but
psychological theories offer useful insights on employee attitudes toward and reactions to compensation matters. Whether
the nature of industrial relations issues is sufficiently unique to justify considering industrial relations a" true discipline" has
been controversial, but most scholars appear to favor the interdisciplinary subject view.

Industrial relations and globalization: challenges for employers and their organizations
"IR" may be defined as the means by which the various interests involved in the labour market are accommodated, primarily
for the purpose of regulating employment relationships. IR is essentially collectivist and pluralist in outlook. It is concerned
with the relationships which arise at and out of the workplace (that is, relationships between individual workers, the
relationships between them and their employer, the relationships employers and workers have with the organizations formed
to promote and defend their respective interests, and the relations between those organizations, at all levels). Industrial
relations also includes the processes through which these relationships are expressed (such as, collective bargaining;
worker involvement in decision-making; and grievance and dispute settlement), and the management of conflict between
employers, workers and trade unions, when it arises.
These relationships and processes are influenced by the government and its agencies through policies, laws, institutions
and programmes, and by the broader political, social, economic, technological and cultural characteristics of each country.
The IR policy, legal and institutional framework in a particular country is developed through bipartite consultative processes
(i.e., between employer and worker representatives, and by them, individually, with government) and tripartite consultation
and cooperation (involving government and the social partners).
IR outcomes are a series of rules which apply to work, setting down minimum (and other) wages and terms and conditions
of employment for workers. These employment conditions can cover hours of work, leave, training, termination of
employment and the like, as well as issues related to occupational safety and health, social security (sometimes), and
conditions applying to special categories of workers. These rules also define the roles and responsibilities of the parties,
individually and collectively (eg, through legislation; collective labour agreements; decisions by arbitrators and courts; and
enterprise work rules). IR processes or arrangements have traditionally been expressed through the individual employment
relationship and collective bargaining, and have a mediative function. They are directed to achieving a compromise between
"market forces" (which seek to set the price and quantity of labour) and intervention in the market place by employers,
workers and their representatives (and by government and its agencies, for political and social reasons) which establishes
the various types of rules (noted above) which govern the employment relationship.
The essential rationale for intervention is three-fold - firstly, the right of those involved and affected by decisions in the
marketplace to participate in resolving employment relationship issues; secondly, the function of freedom of association and
collective bargaining in redressing the balance of power between "capital" and "labour"; and, thirdly, to prevent labour
exploitation (eg, sweated and child labour). The relative "balance" between the role of market forces and intervening IR
arrangements in regulating employment relationships will vary between countries.

Industrial relations in Botswana workplace conflict: behind the diamond sparkle


This gives critical insights in the complex issues surrounding the management of employment relationship in Africa,
specifically focusing on Botswana. It is set in the context of explosive industrial relations involving Debswana Diamond
Mining Company and the Botswana Mine Workers Union over the contentious issues of pay bonus and collective
bargaining. Failure to reach an amicable compromise by both parties' results in a debilitating strike which costs the company
millions of funds and affected it's the corporate image contrary to its well-crafted social responsibility. More painfully, the end
game is a loss of employment and dreams shattered for 461 dismissed workers who depended solely on this work as their
only source of income. Expected learning outcomes understand the limits of managerial prerogative and the right to
manage; appreciate the inherent conflict of interests between labour and capital; consider more equitable compensation
schemes in dealing with collective bargaining; and discuss the concept of social responsibility in the context internal
customers-employees.

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| Khushboo Gupta-2 | 20153024 | LLIR |


The strike
Like many years of sustained profitability, 2003 was very good for Botswanas number one flagship company, Debswana
Diamond Company. Debswana, a subsidiary of the Anglo American De Beers Diamond Company, is a joint 50:50
partnership between the Botswana government and the world leading diamond producer, De Beers. Following this
impressive performance, which saw the company produce a record output of 31 million carats translating into a revenue of
P11.7 billion. It is from this financial success that on 13 March 2003, the Management of Debswana, announced a bonus
payment of P2, 500.00 equivalent to h250. This bonus, which management referred to as a once off ex gratia special
bonus, was only given to employees in the salary band C and below (memo from Debswana Managing Director, 13 March
2003). The beneficiaries were mainly junior staff. But what was not clear, is how much bonus did the top managers award
themselves?
According to the Industrial Court records pertaining to this case, when these bonus increases were awarded the Debswana
management and the BMWU were negotiating salary and conditions of service. Consequently on 23 April 2003 the two
parties reached an agreement. Later it emerged that in accord with the newly introduced performance management system
(PMS) huge bonuses were given to the bosses. Some union leaders claim that senior managers got bonus payments
ranging from P200, 000 to P1, 000,000 over and above their normal pay. It is on the realization of the pay inequity between
low ranking staff and managerial employees that on the 24 April, just a day after the management and the union agreed on
terms, the union branch at the Jwaneng mine (the number one world diamond producer by value) demanded a bonus
payment of P25, 000 to all employees within the union bargaining scope (Industrial Court Record, Case No. IC. 1/04). The
Jwaneng mine workers demand got the support of other employees of Debswana at the Orapa and Lethakane mines. This
set the mood for contestation between the management and the union, leading to a new dispute over pay.
Initially it seemed as if the management and the union were close to a deal but this was not to be. They appeared to be near
but far apart, as the unfolding events rolled quickly into an open confrontation. The result was explosive strikes that lead to
the mass dismissal of workers, now widely known as the 461 workers. The following sections give a background to the
cause of the strike, how it was handled by the Debswana management and the role played by the union leadership. Finally, I
look at the consequences of strike, with emphasis on the outcome for workers.

Wage dispute and collective bargaining


Prior to this dispute, the Debswana management and the Union entered into a collective labour agreement on 24 April 2000.
Effectively the huge bonus pay differentials between management and ordinary workers rendered this agreement
ineffectual. The matter reached a deadlock and therefore was under the terms of Botswana Trade Dispute Act, referred to
the Commissioner of Labour for mediation. At this meeting, management offered the union workers a 10 per cent salary
increase and a 5 per cent bonus, and made it clear that this was a final settlement that must be taken the same day or it
would be withdrawn by the end of business. However, the union proposed a 15 per cent salary increase and 25 per cent
bonus. From this salary and bonus gap, it was clear that the parties were far apart. In law, they were not of the same mind.
Hence, the mediation collapsed and the union declared its next move: the right to strike. In a desperate attempt to resolve
the matter, management offered the union what has become known in union circles as a 10:10 offer, meaning a 10 per cent
increase salary and 10 per cent bonus, but again the union made a counter proposal of a 13 per cent salary increase and 15
per cent bonus. According to the union, management was adamant that their offer was full and final and not negotiable and
emphasized take it or leave it (Botswana Mine Workers Union, 2005). They were too close yet still far apart. At this point
the battle ground had been prepared.

The strike and workers resistance


The strike unfolded dramatically, with union making the first move by giving management 48 hours notice of its intention to
strike. In response, management went straight to the Industrial Court, seeking an interdict of the impeding strike action,
arguing that such industrial action would be illegal. The court ruled in favour of management. Meanwhile, in recognition of
this new development from the court, the union met the rank and file workers and a proposal was made that the union
should go back to management and negotiate the 10:10 offer as a compromise. Now, armed with the hand of the law,
management was empowered they brushed off any talk of negotiation, reminding them that the offer was take it or leave it
by end of business. In other words, the offer was withdrawn and void. According to the union, management refused to
negotiate because they believed that as they had won a court interdict the employees would not go on strike. Indeed the
ruling of Justice de Villers was clearly in support of this:
That this contemplated strike therefore does not comply with the requirement set out in Section 42 (1)
(a)

(i) Of the Trade Disputes Act which provides that no person may take part in a strike if the strike is not in compliance
with the provisions of this Part or an agreed procedure (The Courts, underlined).

Unfortunately this was not the case. In Botswana labour history, almost all the strikes have been declared illegal. Workers
have argued for instance that it is difficult if not impossible to have a legal strike because the procedures referred to by the
learned judge are so long and in the end frustrate their right to strike. In this respect they have accused the government of
enacting labour laws that favour employers and oppress employees. On the morning of 23 August 2004, over 3,000
Debswana miners went on strike. Without wasting time, management rushed to the Industrial Court, this time demanding not

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| Khushboo Gupta-2 | 20153024 | LLIR |


only the strike stoppage but the. Moreover, the company ordered dismissed workers to vacate company houses. More
unusually, Debswana management asked the Court to order imprisonment of the union leadership for what they referred as
the inciting workers to go on strike. Although the Court did not agree to the latter demand, it pronounced that the strike was
illegal. Nevertheless, workers ignored the Court ruling and continued with the strike. Workers reasoned that the Court was
biased in favour of government and the company, because prior to their dismissal they were not given a hearing in line with
principles of jurisprudence. Workers also argued that their dismissal was unfair and selective in that out of 3,000 striking
workers only 461 were fired. How did the company arrive at this decision, they asked?
For its part, Debswana said that essential workers are not supposed to go on strike, but this was not accepted because
employees said some of the workers were not in essential service. Perhaps more importantly, dismissed workers argued
that government was not a neutral player, but a central shareholder them with company buses, 500 kilometers to Gaborone,
the place where the court is housed, they used them as witness against striking workers.

The strike and power struggles in the union


The timing of the 461 strike came at point of where there was radicalization in the rank and file BMWU workers. This is
reflected from the change of leadership and soon thereafter the decision to take management head on with bonus inequity.
Despite the overwhelming support for the strike (close to 3,000 workers initially went on strike), the old union leadership was
opposed to the strike, preferring to talk even though the Debswana management had unreasonable conditions such as the
take it or leave it offer. Analyzing the intervention of the leadership of BMWU during the strike, it was clear that as the strike
reached the difficult and most crucial point, at which stage the power of battle between the government and De Beers and
the trade union was to be determined, the interests of trade union rank and file members were ignored by the leadership.
Whereas the ordinary workers wanted to go for an all-out fight and go on with the strike, the leadership were scared and
prematurely called off the strike, opting for negotiating. Debswana management exploited this weakness and started sacking
some of the workers. After this blunder the BMWU leadership changed the constitution to cushion themselves from
unemployment, hence a provision was made for the president and secretary general to be fulltime workers of the union. The
ordinary 461 members did not enjoy this privilege and their dire situation was basically of no real concern to the union
leadership. For example, in dismissing the case of 461, one of the major reasons given by the judge of the Industrial Court
was that the BMWU leaders failed to register the case in time after referral by the Commissioner of Labour, hence he
accused them of acting imprudently (Regonamanye, 2009).
These bitter divisions were in the main about a power struggle for the control of the trade union, between the old executive
and the new one. It appears that the old guard wanted to cling to power but the ordinary workers were fed up with them
because of the suspicion they were working with management. Moreover, such suspicions became credible when the
Debswana management refused to recognize the new union and continued to work with the now outvoted previous union
officials. Hence, to many workers they sell-outs because they betrayed their cause.
One factor that fueled the power struggles was the union resources. With a large membership base and substantial
business investments came financial resources, which the union leadership controlled. That control included the ability to
use the finances to attend local, regional and international events and conferences and stay in top class hotels. Ultimately
the clash over control came to the new leadership, the power struggle between the president and secretary general came to
an end when the former strongman of the BMWU, Chimbidzani Chimidza, was ousted out at a general meeting. Mr.
Chimbidzani was reported as saying in the media after defeat that, my relationship with the union ends here. Since then,
the former defiant president has not been heard from.
According to dismissed workers, these union leaders that they called sell outs, cooperated with management by refusing to
hand over to the new union leaders after they were voted out. The timing was crucial as Debswana management refused to
work with the new union, because they would recognize them until the proper handover of power and their registration as
legitimate representatives with the Ministry of Labour was complete. It would seem that this delay was important in
frustrating the dismissed workers case. At this point, prospects of winning the case through the Courts had failed, and the
dreams of dismissed workers were shattered. On the other hand, Debswana was happy. But what does this mean terms of
corporate governance, specifically relating this sage to corporate social responsibility.

Figure: Relationships between trade unions, bargaining Council and government


The 2011 strike brought many conflicts and controversies in Industrial relations in Botswana. Firstly, at the onset of the
strike, strike rules agreement was signed by the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) representing
government and five of the recognized Unions affiliated to Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU)
(Directorate of Public Service Management, 2011). The agreement set out members who were excluded from participating
in the strike, and the non-essential services that should form part of the skeletal staff to man the offices during strike and the
provision on minimum service for essential service. Though the law clearly stipulates that essential services are not
supposed to be part of the strike, this agreement allowed them to be part of the strike and as expected, this caused conflict
as the strike progressed.

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| Khushboo Gupta-2 | 20153024 | LLIR |

BFTU

TAWU
BOGOU

BARGAINING
COUNCIL

BOFEPUSU
BLLAHWU
NALCGPWU
BOSETU
BTU
BOPEU

GOVERNMENT

Consequences of the strike


The consequences of Debswanas decision to expel so many workers were profoundly felt not just by the workers and their
immediate families. The impact was widespread in the communities where Debswana was mining the diamonds. In a public
gathering addressed by the area member of parliament, Slumber Tsogwane, residents spoke strongly about this problem:
A meeting, which was held to brief Orapa residents about the Marriage Amendment Bill, turned into criticism of Debswanas
management unfair employee dismissals following last years strike. At the briefing, which was attended by Slumber
Tsogwane, MP for Boteti North, the residents complained that the employees were unfairly dismissed since there was no
prior trial or hearing to point out their wrong deeds. One of the speakers, Modiredi Ofisi accused Tsogwana of not
intervening in sensitive matter that affects their lives as Botswana. Ofisi said that Tsogwana has attended their meetings but
never bothered to respond to their concerns about their unfair dismissals. You came to us but all you did was greet us and
then you went back without a single comment about our problems (allAfrica.com, 2005).
The image of Debswana was not helped by the revelations of cameras at work the workplace. Workers discovered that the
company has installed secrete cameras in their toilets. They felt offended and ridiculed by the company whose mission is
mining diamonds responsibly and being a people-focused organisation that sees people as the most important asset
(Managing Directors Report, Debswana Annual Review, 2007). The union accused management of spying and violating
their human rights. Though Debswana tried to play this event down and offered financial compensation, great damage has
been caused and trust has been compromised.

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