Striking public service union members threaten security agents

FRANCISTOWN: Striking public service union members last week took their battle to security agents, alleging intimidation.

Union marshals rescued a security agent from the Criminal Investigating Department from an angry crowd of union members, who they alleged, had begun following them from last Sunday while they were finalising their plans to strike.

“The man was here to spy on us. There was no need for him to be amongst us, all he wanted was to take back what we said to the government,” said one member who asked not to be named.

Commenting on the incident, the regional secretary of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU), Tshekatsheko Lekang, accused the government of breaking the strike agreement not to  intimidate union members and alleged that the government was trying to break the strike.

“Even though we told the employer that we will only work with identified  police officers, we are still experiencing interference, especially from DIS  and CID secret agents. This morning we told a DIS officer who had followed us in his car to come out and talk to the union leaders if he wants help, rather than spy on us from his car. At first he argued, but we warned him that he was breaking our agreement with government; only then did he move away,” said Lekang.

He said if security agents spy on striking workers,  it shows that government is against peaceful demonstrations. “It shows that these people are ready to shoot at us, but we will not be shaken; we are ready for anything that happens,” Lekang stressed .

He said the unions were prepared to take the government  to court because it had broken most of the rules that were agreed on.

“If they can continue doing this, the best way is to apply for a new permit; some government officials have threatened our members telling that if they want join the strike they should write letters first; this is wrong and is the intimidation that we are talking  about,” he said.

The majority of public service union members has embarked on a 10-day industrial action following the breakdown of negotiations with the government for an across the board 16 percent salary increase.

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