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Trade unions demand answers

…as employers deny workers salary hikes

BUSINESS REPORTER

MASERU – Six factory workers unions have joined forces to highlight their great distaste for the workers’ salaries which have not been increased since last year, notwithstanding their incessant requests for the wages’ adjustment.

On behalf of the unions, the Secretary General of the National Clothing and Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), Samuel Mokhele, said the Wages Advisory Board failed to reach an agreement with the employers and their unions.

The other unions include the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), the National Allied Clothing and Textile Workers Union (NACTWU), the United Textile Employees (UNITE) and the National Union of Commerce, Catering and Allied Workers (NUCCAW).

Mokhele said their negotiations with the board reached a dead-end over the increase of their salaries, adding that although they wanted a 20 percent hike, the employers, however, only offered 4 percent, 4.5 percent and 5percent increase.

He was quick to show that the unions did not know how the employers made such salary adjustments. “We, therefore, could not agree with the employers on the percentage increase,” he noted. The unions were expecting the then Minister of Employment and Labour, Keketso Rantšo, to intervene in the fracas as the Labour Code of 1992 stipulates.

Mokhele said their talks with the employers have since never come through because the latter claimed they could not meet the unions due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. “Actually, the employers requested to postpone our meeting from March 31 to May without addressing our concerns,” he said, accusing the employers of buying time by stalling the talks.

He added: “We had expected that with effect from April 1, the gazette for the new salaries would be released. The law gives the minister the power to intervene in the event parties do not agree on such matters. But nothing has come through yet.”

This, he said is major concern to the underpaid workers who have families to take care of, adding they earn smaller wages in comparison to their counterparts in South Africa.

For his part, the new Minister of Labour and Employment, Moshe Leoma, said he is aware of the grievances the labour unions have over their members’ salaries.

“I have always known about their concerns since the time I was still the deputy Minister of Local Government,” he said, adding that the matter was duly brought to the attention of the cabinet by his predecessor Rantšo.

“Since I am now hands-on in the matter, I will study the problems and issues raised by the workers unions before addressing them,” he noted, adding however, that he will first seek counsel from government legal representatives on how to go about the issue.

He conceded that the law grants him enough authority to intervene in the scuffle, promising to immediately take care of the unions’ concerns.

 

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