Avani Lesotho workers back at work

Avani Lesotho workers back at work

MASERU – Dozens of hotel workers who bore the worst of the country’s harsh labour practices are back at work.
For going on what became the longest labour strike in Lesotho’s history, hundreds of workers of the then Lesotho Sun and Maseru Sun hotels got into the country’s history books.
But they also earned themselves a place among the unemployed ranks after they were fired.

After three years, they are set to report for duty again, thanks to an ownership change at the hotel chain.
’Mamahlape Moshoeshoe is one of the workers expected to start work on July 1 after she was reinstated.
“It has been a struggle but we are happy God came through for us,” Moshoeshoe said.

“It is not easy to get a job, unemployment rate is very high. I feel like those who replaced us need more counselling than we do because they will be sent home when we are reinstated,” she says.
“We were already accustomed to joblessness and they are going to start this difficult journey.”
Moshoeshoe will start work at Lesotho Avani tomorrow.

Lesotho Sun and Maseru Sun have been renamed Avani Lesotho and Avani Maseru after being bought by the firm, Avani.
The new owners have so far reinstated 81 employees and offered M20 000 in compensation for unpaid loans and insurance policies that had lapsed as a result of their axing.
Moshoeshoe was part of 200 Lesotho Sun employees who went on strike in December 2014.
The strike lasted for three years and four months.

Before they broke the record, Lesotho’s longest strike was by the Construction and Allied Workers Union of Lesotho (CAWULE) in 1990 that took three months.
Lesotho Sun, which was owned by Sun International and the Lesotho government, locked them out and applied the “no-work-no-pay” principle.
Pressure by international labour unions and local MPs failed to yield any fruit.
In the meantime, Moshoeshoe and other workers continued to suffer.

Daily, they would camp at the hotel gates chanting protest songs and hoisting placards as tourists passed by but their employers remained adamant.
Soon the morale died down and they retreated home after some 12 months of protesting.
Some got other jobs elsewhere but many others joined the world of the unemployed.

Although Moshoeshoe and other workers are relieved, they still have to bear with debts that accumulated while they were unemployed.
“I need to start afresh,” she said adding that her pension scheme has all but collapsed.
“Next year I will be 60 years, meaning I will have to go on pension. I only have a year to try to raise money, take care of eminent issues and pay back loans,” said Moshoeshoe. “I feel like we need more counselling.”

Avani Lesotho manager Willem van Heerden said he was happy the issue had finally been resolved.
“Three years is a long time to wait for a matter to be resolved,” van Heerden said.
“From last year we had walked a tough path trying to put the issue to bed and at times we were not in agreement but finally we have reached an amicable decision,” he said.

The National Union of Commerce, Catering, and Allied Workers Secretary General, Tšeliso Ramochela, said it was unfortunate some of the workers had died before the case could be resolved.
“We are humbly asking that counselling becomes part of the on-boarding because this issue has left serious wounds that cannot be overlooked and they need to be addressed before they start with work to ensure a smooth transition,” Ramochela said.

Minister of Trade Tefo Mapesela urged employees and the employer to work in harmony.
“I am pleading with you employees yes, there are times when relations will be sour but let us ensure that we raise our concerns lawfully,” Mapesela said.
“This transpired because the government failed to take responsibility in a facility where it is a major shareholder,” he said.
He described the M20 000 payout as a small consolation for the workers to help them get back on their feet.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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