MASERU – Factory workers through the National Clothing, Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), have dragged their employers to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) over a salary dispute. The salary dispute involves three factories, namely; Global Garments, CNY and Neising International that have been drawn into the negotiations for the wage increase.
The workers are demanding a 10 percent salary increase from their employers. Negotiations between the factories and the trade union are supposed to be finalised by the end of the month according to labour law. NACTWU Secretary General, Sam Mokhele, says the factory workers also demand a 14 percent salary hike calculated beginning April 1, as stipulated by the law and not on July 1 as has happened.
The workers, he said, also demand 10 percent after their employers have given them the delayed 14 percent increase. “The minimum wage is set by the government, but the salary hike comes from the employees,” Mokhele said, adding that the demand for salary increase is directed to the employers. So now that the employers have not heeded the workers’ demands which is why the union has approached the DDPR for resolution of the matter.
Mokhele said the negotiations started on July 22, and still continue. He said if the employers do not bow to the workers’ demands, they will have no option but to embark on industrial action. Mokhele further said they still have members at other factories adding, however, that those members have not yet given them the go ahead to discuss the salary hike with their bosses.
He said though the wage hike is set at 10 percent, the union expects the employers to put something on the table, saying: “If they do not afford the 10 percent, then they should say how much they can afford as a starting point.” The workers want the salary increase at the time when the textile sector is hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and, because of the devastating impact of the corona virus on countries’ economies, most factories lament that business is bad because of failure to secure international orders.
Many factories claim a drastic decline in orders from the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), with the US being the buyer, while material procurement costs have reportedly risen. Many workers in the country’s industrial areas have also reportedly contracted the virus and to contain the disease, some have shut down while others have laid-off employees.
The combined textile, apparel and footwear manufacturing industry remains Lesotho’s largest formal private sector employer with about 40 000 workers, mainly women. In May, the factory workers took to the streets demanding a salary hike of 20 percent but the employers said they could only afford 5 percent. It was later agreed that they would be given 14 percent.