M800 workers’ subsidy ‘unsustainable, insufficient’



MASERU – The National COVID-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) and Trade Unions say a decision by the government to subsidise factory workers’ wages by M800 is neither sustainable nor sufficient to address COVID-19 in the country. NACOSEC CEO Thabo Khasipe said as much as the money was needed by factory workers who were unable to earn salaries during the lockdown, giving them the money was more like addressing the impact of COVID-19 while the main problem, which is COVID-19, was ignored. Khasipe said it would have been wise to fight the root cause of the problem before addressing its results, adding the government should have focused on intervention measures that address the root, which is COVID-19. He said this could be achieved by focusing on prevention measures which, among others, include sensitising communities and factory workers included in safety precautions as prescribed in the Public Health Regulations (2020).

He said even though the money is needed by factories workers that are vulnerable due to COVID-19, the money will not sustain them for a long time and the virus will continue escalating. Khasipe said focusing on prevention will reduce the rate of infection and will give the country time to gather the needed resources. He added that giving factory workers money is like addressing the end results of COVID-19 while ignoring the root cause. As a result, the problem will continue to escalate due to absence of action put in place to control the spread of the virus, while addressing the root problem will mean its impact will soon disappear as well.

“Interventions when mitigating the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 should be approached carefully; let’s approach by separating symptoms from the root causes. Let us not intervene directly at the symptoms while ignoring the root cause. “A lot of times we make that mistake. We give factory workers money, which is not a problem like I said, but that does not address the problem that brought about their financial situation. “We give them money and neglect to teach and encourage them to follow and adhere to public health regulations, as a result the virus continues to spread. Let us intervene carefully,” he said. Trade unions agree with Khasipe that a salary subsidy for factory workers does not address COVID-19 directly but focuses on its impact.

They said a lot needs to be done in the textile industry to prevent the spread of the virus and secure the financial well-being of factory workers. IDUL Deputy General Secretary, May Tlhakanyane, said the M800 allowance should have been accompanied with prevention measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As much as the money makes a difference in the lives of factory workers, adhering to public health regulations to combat the spread of COVID-19 remains a challenge in the industry, he observed, adding factory workers still struggle to, among others, maintain social distancing due to their large numbers and working environment.

He noted that for adherence to be achieved, behavioural change is a key element which is a challenge in the textile industry. “Factory workers struggle to keep social distancing, especially during lunch and when working. These are among the things that the Government should have been strict with to curb the spread of the virus. “However, we cannot say the government should not have given factory workers money and focused on prevention measures. How will a hungry person even listen or adhere to health regulations, the two most important things that need to be prioritised,” he said.

Ratlhakanyane said combating the spread of COVID-19 in the textile sector and ensuring the well-being of factory workers would only be a success if trade unions are part of the NACOSEC so that they can advise more on issues concerning textile industry workers. “These people are making decisions concerning factory workers without having a clear understanding of the industry. Right now we are wondering what will happen with factory workers going forward now that this week they will be receiving the remaining subsidy, especially since the country is reporting new cases of COVID-19 every day,” he said. Moliehi Moqasa who works at Precious Garment industry said the subsidy has been of great help to her.

She said if she had to choose between the money or training on safety measures to follow, she would not know which to choose because the two are equally important to her. “Living in Maseru in a rented apartment is a challenge despite working and earning a salary, what more when one is not working. I would not be able to survive even for a month therefore the money came in handy during these trying times. “On the other hand, it worries me that we are not taught nor do we follow safety precautions in the factory due to our numbers and time constrains. “I wish something could be done to address the challenge because as much as we want money we do not want to contract the virus,” she said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *