Labour legislation is the unique device governments use to lay down standards and conventions in the workplace and to control industrial relations. Using focused interviews with unionists, government officials, employers and other relevant parties, this field study investigated the way in which labour legislation in Botswana affects the organisation of the country's federation of unions. The findings indicate that the BFTU's organisation is affected by the Trade Union and Employers Organisation Act. In particular, the restric- tions in this Act separate policy and administration in the BFTU and this has had negative implications for the union's effectiveness. The fact that its policymaking body is part-time negatively affects coordination, communication and cooperation processes in the BFTU. According to the Act, public sector workers are not technically employees and therefore cannot belong to unions. This gives the impression that the state is not particularly convinced about the benefits of unionisation. This may create a difficult environment in which the BFTU and other unions must operate.