Textile unions blast new minimum wage

Textile unions blast new minimum wage

MASERU – TEXTILE trade unions are unhappy with the wage increase announced by Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo which they feel is measly and a betrayal of an earlier pledge by the minister.
In the 2019 Minimum Wages Gazette published last week, Rantšo announced a six percent wage increase for some sections of the textile industry.
Union leaders told thepost that they are yet to meet to discuss what action to take after the minister reneged on the promise of a 12 percent wage increase across the board.
Sam Mokhele, secretary-general for the National Clothing and Textile Workers Union (NACTWU), complained that Rantšo did not increase the wages uniformly across the board.
Mokhele said his union is also not pleased with the late release of the gazette, saying the delay might lead to a strike by factory workers. The gazette was supposed to have been released in February.

In the clothing, textile and leather manufacturing sector, a general worker with less than 12 months of continuous service with the same employer is currently paid M1 696 and the new hike has put their salaries at M1 900 per month, which is a 12 percent increment.
The weekly wage has been increased to M438 while the daily take home is M87.
For a textile machine operator with less than 12 months service, the wage has been increased to M2 042 per month from M1 823 monthly while those earning weekly will be paid M472. Daily rates have been pegged at M94.
A trainee machine operator’s wage is equal to a general worker’s salary.
Salaries for trained machine operators with more than 12 months of service will be increased from M2 000 to M2 120, while a general textile worker will be paid M2 104, up from M1 879, which is a six percent increase.
“But we are glad that the government increased with the agreed percentage of 12 percent for other workers,” Mokhele said.

Ntsane ’Nena, who is the interim chairperson of Alliance of Trade Unions, said when they were striking the government promised a 12 percent increase across the board last year. He said workers are now surprised that other workers in the textile industry will only get a six percent increase.
’Nena said workers who earn M2 000 and above received a six percent increase, while people who earn below M2 000 received a 12 percent increment.
In other sectors, the increment was even lower, said ’Nena.
Union leaders will now revert back to workers for feedback on the next course of action, he said, adding that suggestions for a strike action are already floating around.
“Talks will still continue between the trade unions and the government,” he said.

Daniel Maraisane, from the United Textile Employees (UNITE), said they were expecting the minister to offer at least 10 percent and not the six percent offered for workers earning above M2 000.
He said the minister once collected opinions from workers where an increment of 10 percent-plus was suggested for this year.
“The workers are not happy at all,” he said.
Like other unions, UNITE is consulting its membership.
“After collecting their opinions we will analyse them to pave the way forward,” he said.
“We will accept the workers’ decision just like last year,” he said.

However, workers on the factory floor have expressed mixed feelings about the wage increment.
Thabang Nkhotha, a factory worker at the Maseru West Industrial Area, said he was happy with the increment.
Nkhotha said the differently structured wage increments, in his judgement, are fair because “there was (an) unfair wage gap between workers in the same factory”.
“It was like we are not working in the same premises. The wage differences created a huge gap between us as workers,” he said.

’Matlali Makara, a worker in the same area, said the salary is better than before but not enough.
She said the majority of workers are unhappy, especially those who have been working in the factories for more years claiming they are more productive than new recruits.
“The increment is so little. There is no difference that it is going to make,” said Makara, adding she earns M1 820 per month.
The increment is inadequate to meet the needs of her family as a sole provider of two children in primary and secondary school.

She, however, said she cannot complain much as she has not been in the industry for long.
’Manyakallo Phumo, another factory worker, described the increment as “too little but better” even though it cannot meet her needs.
“Now that the increment has been made what is important is for workers to plan their salaries wisely so that children can go to school and also meet the family needs,” Phumo said.

Refiloe Mpobole


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