As workers return to duty
MASERU – Trade unions have vowed to deal with perpetrators who shot and killed two factory workers who were part of a series of protests over salary increases a few weeks ago.
One male protester was run over by a truck while a female colleague was gunned down by the army. One of the deceased was buried last weekend with the other’s funeral is scheduled for next weekend.
A group of other protesters were injured during the demonstrations which turned violent, coupled with the looting and destruction of several businesses in Maseru. The strike began on May 14.
Trade unions have pledged that perpetrators will be dealt with in due course, as the fight over salary increase continues. Since Monday this week, thousands of factory workers returned to work after the government announced that the increment’s gazette will be published on June 15.
Some started going back to work as early as last week through the encouragement of their respective unions. The sector is one of the largest employers in the country, with around 50, 000 people, mostly women employed.
National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) assistant Secretary, Tšepang Makakole, shared in an interview that they will deal with all the damages after they are done with the salary issue.
“We are currently still in the process of fighting for the increase. Immediately after we are done, we will come to those who killed some of our members. We will deal with this matter aggressively when the time is right,” Makakole said.
Workers are demanding a 20 percent salary increase but employers say they can only pay a 6 percent increase.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has an impact in these negotiations as the industry has been severely hit. Orders from the United States (US) have dropped while the costs of procuring imported materials have risen. The textile workers accuse the government of insincerity in its dealings.
This, after its announcement during the protests that it has engaged the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to assist in dealing with the matter. Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro last week urged protesters to return to work as the gazette would be released in June.
The protests were organised by different trade unions including the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), United Textile Employees (UNITE), Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA), Lentsoe La Sechaba Trade Union (LESWA) as well as Construction, Mining and Quarry Trade Union (CMQ) and Lesotho Wholesale, Catering and Allied Workers Union (LEWCAWU).