Sunday, April 24, 2011

Workers unite!

(Tiny photo via Mmegi)

If you don't read the Mmegi, you might not know there's a massive strike on right now in Botswana. CNN finally picked up the story--90,000 out of 103,000 possible strikers are refusing to go to their jobs at border posts, schools, and hospitals (those numbers may be a lot higher). They're requesting a pay raise, which the government hasn't given them in three years.

Some union members have decided not to strike because they can't afford to lose two weeks salary and potentially lose their jobs. Some medical professionals are also not striking because they feel a duty to help the sick people in their care. The government is also requiring 30% of people--"essential service workers"--to stay at work; I'm not sure if that's really happening or not.

The border closings were supposed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, but the government has sent military scabs to do the jobs of the people that are striking. Borders are open as usual. This is a violation of strike rules, and the union people are unsurprisingly angry (although this does mean I'll probably get to leave the country on May 1!).

Even though the strike started with a little bit of that confusion Botswana is known for--are we striking? I think so. OK cool.--it's really taken off. Check out the comments at the bottom of this Mmegi story on the strike starting. I kind of wish the strikers were more visible; this is where not having a town center in Gaborone seems like a handicap. I saw them across the street from Princess Marina Hospital, but just barely.

Of course, if you're only listening to government news, you might not even know the strike is happening. On Monday, the government radio didn't even report the strike had begun. Since then, they've done an abysmal job of pretending to be an unbiased news service.

This would be an excellent time for me to get kicked out of the country for criticizing the government.

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