Teachers’ strike hangs in the balance

Teachers’ strike hangs in the balance

MASERU – THE month-long teachers’ strike set to begin on August 2 is hanging in the balance after the Progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers (PALT) withdrew its support.
PALT Executive Secretary Paul Sematlane announced at a press conference yesterday that his union will not take part in the strike because it is unlawful.
Sematlane said for a strike to be lawful, it has to concern “a dispute of interest which has been referred to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR)”.
He said all unions and associations that have announced that strike have not referred any dispute of interest to the DDPR.

‘‘Any strike which runs counter to this provision is a serious violation of the dictates of the law and highly risky as it is unprotected,’’ Sematlane said.
Sematlane also said now that PALT is not a party to the strike, all other unions are not qualified to go on strike because they do not have enough numbers.
Armed with a letter of recognition from the Ministry of Education principal secretary, Dr Thabang Lebese, Sematlane said PALT is the largest teachers’ trade union and therefore it is the only one that can call a strike.

“Please be informed that your request for recognition as the largest Trade Union in Lesotho with 7722 has been approved,” reads the letter in part.
“The Ministry of Education and Training officially recognizes PALT as the largest Trade Union as per section 64 of Education Act 2010.” The letter was written on June 28, when teachers were planning the strike.

Sematlane called on all PALT members not to participate in the strike in order to ‘‘enable our union to protect its members in accordance with the provisions of the Labour Laws of Lesotho’’.
‘‘Engaging in unlawful strike gives the employer, the Ministry of Education and Training, a right to do anything with the protesters,’’ he said.
‘‘All teachers are expected to resume their normal professional duties when the schools re-open and disregard unlawful actions.’’

Sematlane also said teachers cannot go on strike because last year PALT entered into a settlement agreement with the ministry at the DDPR for continued negotiation after they declared dispute of interest.
‘‘Had MOET not signed this agreement, we could have been issued with the certificate to pursue its demands by declaring a lawful and protected industrial action or strike,’’ said Sematlane.

’Mapule Motsopa

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