Business, workers smoke peace pipe

Business, workers smoke peace pipe

MASERU – WITH both businesses and workers choking from economic problems affecting the country, stakeholders are coming together to try and find a balance between profit making the welfare of workers.
In recent months, Lesotho has been rocked by tense relations between employers and employees, often ending in strikes due to the reluctance by businesses to improve salaries.
Businesses, on the other hand, are struggling to stay afloat amid tough economic conditions that have resulted in many going under within two years of formation.
Both workers and employers have at times resorted to courts of law to break their impasse.

To find common ground, business, government and workers’ representatives met this week for a roundtable workshop in the capital, Maseru.
“Workers are investors, and they go to businesses to make profits,” Labour Principal Secretary Lerotholi Pheko said, adding that there is need for a win-win situation that would ensure the survival of both businesses and workers by adopting policies that balance profit making with workers’ welfare.
He was speaking at the four-day workshop organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The ILO hopes the workshop will help its members, the government and business understand, design, implement and enforce effective and coherent wage policies from a decent work perspective.
For this to happen, trade unions in Lesotho need to improve their negotiation capacity and acquire skills that enable to push for deals that go beyond the minimum wage, Pheko said.
Pheko said he hoped the workshop would help set a strategic direction that will strengthen social dialogue in the country.
Pheko said employers usually have an advantage over workers during negotiations because their knowledge of business operations is deeper than that of workers.
To bridge this gap, workers should also learn the dynamics of business operations, he said, describing workers as “the vulnerable ones” who need to be capacitated to negotiate beyond the minimum wage rate.
On the other hand, workers should not negotiate for perks that would put companies out of business, said Pheko.

Representing workers, Lindiwe Sephomolo said workers had endured turbulent times in the past three years due to a tendency by authorities to ignore labour laws.
This, she said, reached a situation where the issue of the minimum wage was hijacked last year leading to the 50 percent minimum wage benchmark.
Workers have failed to benefit from the Minimum Bill Machinery as a result, she said, adding that workers cannot depend on the minimum wage alone yet this has been the basis of negotiations all along.
Sephomolo also said workers need affordable wages, social dialogue and adequate social protection.
Business failures are also affecting workers, said Sephomolo, noting that currently the lifespan of companies in Lesotho is two years.

“We need to have sustainable enterprises in order to create employment,” Sephomolo said.
She said specifically what is needed is peace and political stability.
Another workers’ representative, Lebone-Joang Molefi, said the political instability of the past year had left workers anxious of the future.
He said employers talk about peace and stability and one of the most important principles of the ILO is that poverty constitutes danger everywhere.

Refiloe Mpobole


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