Factory employers refuse to come to the party

. . . as government proposes M800 a month wage subsidy

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – Textile and apparel companies are refusing to either pay factory workers salaries or top-up on what the M800 per worker the government proposed to cushion the workforce during lockdown. The lockdown meant to mitigate the spread of COVID 19 has been ongoing since March 29 and is expected to end on My 5 during which time factory workers will not be able to go to work. Up to 45 00 workers in the textile and apparel factories around the country work under a ‘no work, no pay’ policy. Non-essential businesses (those that are not operating during the lockdown as per the government’s gazette) have been granted PAYE and VAT relief measures.

Lesotho Revenue Authority announced last week that April, May and June PAYE and VAT payments for businesses that are not operating during lockdown will be deferred then the deferred amounts will be paid in eight equal monthly instalments from the end of July 2029.

Non-essential businesses that hired government property (business space) either from BEDCO or LNDC have also been granted a month’s rent break. Textile and apparel factories are among non-essential companies that will benefit from the listed government relief measures in addition their employees’ salaries will be subsidised by M800 per month for three months.

Trade Unions which include National Clothing, Textile & Allied Workers’ Union (NACTWU), Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) and United Textile Employees’(UNITE) told this publication last week that they have scheduled a meeting with employers to discuss how the employers will ensure full salary payments for factory workers.

The plan is to discuss how much they are offering over the M800 subsidy that the government has offered to pay. NACTWU’s general Secretary Sam Mokhele said their meeting with the government and factory employers was fruitless as the employers refused to pay factory workers’ salaries for the days they did not work.

He said despite the relief measures the government granted textile and apparel factories, the employers are not interested or prepared to pay their employees any amount on top of this. “We met with employers last week on Thursday. They refused to either pay their workers’ full salaries or to even add to what the government has already contributed. “We will be communicating this matter with the Command Centre because we believe that the relief measures are put in place so that employers can be able to pay their employees,” Mokhele said.

United Textile Employees’(UNITE) general Secretary Solong noted that they appreciate the government’s initiative but expressed concern that factory workers are not hired by the government therefore textile and apparel companies should also do the right thing and ensure their workers get full salaries at the end of the month. He said M800 is way too little to cover monthly expenses as it only covers rent leaving factory workers stranded without food at home. Factory workers earn about M1 900 a month on average.

The lockdown announced by the Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae Thabane on March 29 has since been extended by two weeks and is now expected to end on May 5, 2020. The extension is, among others, meant to allow the Ministry of Health and the country to transit from the state of preparedness to the stage of case management and to implement economic and social mitigation strategies. Lesotho currently does not have any recorded case of COVID19.

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