The Botswana Worker’s Strike – Part 1 – The Build Up

On March 22, I sat working at my desk at Ntshe House when my coworker and I heard what we thought was a thunderstorm. As the rumblings became louder I realized what I heard was not thunder, but feet. I grabbed my camera and discovered this:

Batswana government union members were publicly taking a stand against a three-year salary freeze attributed to the global economic crisis.  The protest also took place shortly after the country hit 8.5% inflation. At the time I was clueless about all of this, but the protest was somewhat expected by my coworkers. They knew the unions were not happy. The protesters wanted a 16% increase in salary to compensate, and if that wasn’t met then they announced they would soon go on strike.

It was the beginning of something huge. This significant population of government employees is interlaced throughout every major government provided service in Botswana, and fulfills an incredibly high percentage of the overall working population. For them to band together in this capacity is kind of a big deal.

Still, the protest was peaceful, and was followed by an evening candlelight vigil. People went to work like usual the next day.

But by mid-April no one could come to a deal, so on April 14th the protesters returned to Ntshe House to formally hand in a petition stating that the following Monday would be the beginning of a 10-day strike.

and them singing the anthem

The crowds were bigger and sounded more determined to see this thing through.  The following Monday, they began their strike.  In order to make sure they didn’t head out on extended vacation, the union required either a sign-in at work (going on strike was not mandatory for union members) or a sign-in at designated meeting spots throughout the country. At these meeting spots they were to appear in work clothes, arrive at the time they would for work, sit, represent their union, and leave when it was normally time to knock-off.

They did this for 10 days, but still no compromise was met, and so the strike continued. It turned into what became the longest strike in the country’s history (which, admittedly, isn’t that long).

One Response

  1. […] The Botswana Worker’s Strike – Part 1 – The Build Up ( […]

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