Deal with the carnage  in factories

Deal with the carnage in factories

A FEW weeks after the coalition government bowed to pressure and awarded a massive salary hike for factory workers, it would appear that decision is coming back to haunt workers.
There is now a slow carnage within the factories as employers refuse to renew the contracts of casual workers.
We shudder to contemplate the bloodbath and anxiety such mass dismissals will trigger among the poorest of the poor in our society.
And it would be tempting to point an accusing finger at the government and gloat: “We told you so!”
But that would be unhelpful.

As things stand, the government could be facing a nightmare of major proportions if this carnage within the factories is not halted.
With thousands of our youths already out of jobs, this government cannot afford to have thousands more joining the jobless heap.
Something must be done to address this matter.

The employers have been adamant that they cannot afford to pay the new salaries, an argument that has been dismissed by increasingly militant trade unions.
After weeks of violent protests, the Thomas Thabane-led coalition government finally bowed to pressure. We sympathise with the government. It was caught in a tight corner.
This government had to placate an angry workforce that expected something better after it was swept into power on the back of electoral promises to improve their lot last year.
On the other hand, the government needed to keep the factories running and protect the few jobs that were available. That is why the government fought so hard to meet the two warring sides half-way.

Critics however insist the government swung closer to the demands of its own people, in clear disregard of the economic realities on the ground.
We would like to believe the government would not want to see any of its people being thrown onto the streets. On the other hand, the employers must not be seen to be pushing an agenda by dismissing workers just to drive a point.

Of course it is now virtually impossible to reverse the salary increments without triggering a fresh bout of protests by angry workers.
But we believe the government can do something to soften the blow for factory owners. We are thinking here of lucrative tax incentives for textile companies. It could also ensure that textile companies get cheaper water and electricity.

The government could also help with the importation of machinery for the factories. It could even chip in by subsidizing salaries for factory workers. All these incentives could help soften the blow for factory owners.

Other countries such as Kenya, Bangladesh and China have such incentives to keep factory owners happy. Lesotho can also try to implement such incentives.
But that will require clear thinking by the technocrats within the government. The political hawks within government must take a back seat and allow economic imperatives to drive policy.

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