MASERU – Workers’ trade unions have accused government of failure to address the payment of textile and apparel workers during the 21-days national lockdown – exposing them to ineffable suffering. In a press statement released yesterday, a conglomerate of the National Clothing, Textile & Allied Workers’ Union (NACTWU), Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) and United Textile Employees (UNITE) noted that they have failed to secure a meeting with the Ministry of Labour to address the matter amicably despite several attempts.
They unions say the status quo meant government was not interested in taking care of those who contribute most in making Lesotho prosper. “Senior service workers, government ministers, parliamentarians and bosses of the textile and garment sector will receive their fat salaries during the 21-days lockdown and subsequent lockdowns, while our members are languishing in poverty in villages, urban and rural areas. The bosses and ministers live in nice houses and have stocked abundant foods for the lock down while workers are starving with their families,” the trade unions said. They said the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is not their own making and, therefore, do not deserve to suffer due to it.
“The workers will bear the brunt of this pandemic. They have sacrificed their lives for the country with meagre wages and are continuing to keep the economy going as essential workers during this time. Even after the lock down given the bad state of health and safety situation in our textile and garment sectors where workers are exposed to harmful chemicals, breathe in dust day and night, work in hazardous conditions, workers will continue bearing the brunt of the pandemic
This situation shows that workers are sacrificing their lives while employers and government refuse their justified demands to be paid during the lock down while government is prepared to listen sympathetically to employers’ call for a bail out,” they said. They also showed concern towards companies that exploit part time workers with short term contracts, bad working conditions and low wages during this period therefore demand employment security for all, not only for those who are permanent.
“We are, therefore, issuing a call to the Ministry of Labour, government, parliamentarians and employers to meet the following demands: All workers who are at home observing the lock down must be paid their wages in full for the 21 days, essential workers who are required to work must be provided with free transport during this period by employers and the transport must follow guidelines of social distancing,” they noted. The trade unions also demand employers to comply with the Department of Health and Department of Labour’s guidelines in terms of safe guarding workers during the lock down and after the lock to avoid the spread of COVID-19. They again want workers who are medically diagnosed for the coronavirus to be paid full wages until they recover.
“Workers whose children’s schools or day-centres are closed because of the lockdown and who need to take care of those children must be paid full wages during that leave of absence until those centres are re-opened. Workers whose partners test positive for the virus must be released on full pay to take care of their partners until they recover. Workers who suffers from asthma, TB, diabetes and cancer and are advised by the doctors not to report to work because of their conditions must be paid full wages until the doctors advise them to go back to work,” they demanded.