As minister promises to table proposal before cabinet
MASERU – The Minister of Labour, Richard Ramoeletsi, has raised the expectations of civil servants after he promised to make a pronouncement soon on a salary increase to cushion the impact of the high inflation rate in the country. Ramoeletsi held a meeting with the Coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE) on February 3 to thrash out issues surrounding the proposed salary increment and forward findings to cabinet as soon as possible. He has agreed to report back to the unions within a fortnight. The minister confirmed this meeting in an interview with Public Eye, indicating that the unions are, in the main, seeking a decision for a review of their salaries to be completed before finalisation of the 2023/2024 national budget financial estimates.
Ramoeletsi said he will be presenting these demands before cabinet for a collective decision and will report back to COLEPE on or before the agreed time. COLEPE, representing the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA), Lesotho Public Service Association (LEPSSA), Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU), Lesotho Schools Principals’ Association (LESPA), Qiloane Nursing Assistants Association (QINUASA) and the Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) has been pushing for a salary hike beginning 2022. They even penned a letter to then Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro requesting him to ensure that the 2022/2023 financial estimates guarantee an increase in their salaries – and by not less than 25 percent.
COLEPE demanded that with effect from April 1, 2022, government should implement a threshold at which income earners become liable for income tax when salary is increased or raised to M48 000 per annum; with a tax return of M1 300 as the current threshold has been unchanged for some years. Apart from the salary increment, the workers also demand the establishment of a bargaining council and overhaul of the current pension fund structure. In a COLEPE statement issued in Maseru this week, the group said Ramoeletsi has shown an inclination to genuinely team up with them in resolving civil service challenges.
“Other than that, the minister also warned that during the cabinet sitting on January 24 he conceded the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention 1978 (No 151) C151, that we have been working on since 2021 so as to give civil servants a go ahead to formulate trade unions, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) office in Pretoria will soon be introduced in Lesotho to finish the work. “Also, to put into work the Social Security Bill, which will protect health related issues with less funds and also enable every civil servant to pay through their medical insurance. This will assist health facilities to improve their services as well as the way they operate,” reads the statement in part.
The C151 notes the terms of the freedom of association and protection of the right to organise convention and the right to organise and collective bargaining convention and the workers’ representatives’ convention and recommendations. The statement further highlights government’s commitment to passing legislation that regulates the public service reform, awareness of the Labour Amendment Bill – on which they also seek clarity from government – which we want the government to make clear for us, as well as establishment of the Public Sector Coordinating Bargaining Council to ease communication between government and the unions. Speaking to Public Eye LEPOSA acting secretary general, ’Makatleho Mphetho, indicated that they wrote a letter to the newly formed government regarding salary increments on December 15, upon realisation of the impending end of the current fiscal year. Mphetho also noted that inflation has deteriorated rapidly but that there has still not been any salary review for them.
“For the bargaining council we want the government to include us in every financial year so that we have an idea of the budget made that year. That way we will know if the government has money or not and, therefore, make sure that some of our plans are met that year. “The government should also review the issue of inflation if they decide to increase their salaries by two percent then that amount is actually small, for instance if inflation is 7.5 percent,” she said. The government has previously been unable to adjust civil servants’ salaries, arguing that with the advent of declining SACU revenues, the country has realised a further relatively small revenue base between 2019 and 2021 forced by the effects of the pandemic and very large deficits which are not sustainable. However, beginning last year discussions have reportedly been going on between government and the International Monetary Fund to help redress the structural and fundamental economic challenges that the country faces as well as restoring microeconomic stability. The government noted that it can only be after three years of the exercise that salary reviews will commence, subject to the outcome of a structural adjustment programme.