Victory for textile workers

Victory for textile workers

Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – WORKERS at ALC Factory, a textile company in Maputsoe, are back at work after their employer agreed to award them a 17.5 percent salary increase.

The workers downed tools last Tuesday.

The new salary increase will see the lowest paid worker who was earning M1 489 now taking home M1 750 a month.

The company also bowed to pressure when it agreed to give the workers 15 days annual leave as opposed to the 12 days which is the standard in the textile industry.

Tšepang Makakole, the Deputy General Secretary of National Clothing and Allied Workers Trade Union (NACWTU), said this was a victory for the workers.

He said the workers are happy with the terms of their new agreement.

“This is after workers embarked on a protected strike last Tuesday after talks with the employer failed to reach the desired effect,” Makakole said.

“We wanted a M2 500 monthly wage, 18 days of annual leave, 10 percent increment on night shift allowance and 12 weeks maternity leave like in other industries,” Makakole said.

He said the 17.5 percent salary raise was the highest one could earn at the factory.

“We got 15 days of annual leave, and eight weeks of maternity leave but in terms of the night shift allowance it remains the same,” Makakole said.

He said getting a 17.5 percent salary increment is something that has never happened in Lesotho especially in the textile industry hence they consider it a victory even though they did not get what they had initially asked for.

Makakole added that this victory is the first step towards change in the textile industry.

“For a long time workers did not know their rights. They were only aware of their strength to meet (targets) and produce quality work and not aware that they were capable of getting salaries that would make their life easier,” Makakole said.

He said it is unfortunate that the textile sector, which is the second biggest employer in the country and is a backbone of the economy, is continuously overlooked when it comes to employee satisfaction.

“You can remember that from 2011 we have been fighting for workers to get M2 020 but it has not happened up to this day,” he said.

Employers are hiding behind the minimum wage provided for in the Government Gazette using it as an excuse to pay workers peasant salaries while they are making a lot of money out of the sweat of the workers, he said.

“They say that when they were attracted to come and invest in this country they were told that labour was very cheap in this country,” Makakole said.

“Workers have been hungry for a long time and it is high time they get what is due to them.”

Sello Tšukulu, the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC)’s Industrial Relations Manager, said the corporation was glad that the two parties had finally thrashed out an agreement as the strike was affecting productivity in the sector.

Tšukulu said reaching an agreement was a victory for both sides.

“The two sides signed a wage agreement and a recognition and procedural agreement to formalise their relationship moving forward,” Tšukulu said.

He said they are aware that there are some employers who take advantage or misinterpret the gazette that provides for the minimum wage and make it seem as if it is the maximum wage, which is not correct.

He said the agreement was struck after the talks that had started at the factory failed.

“The matter was then taken to the DDPR but they also failed to reach an agreement there hence the workers embarked on a protected strike, and we are grateful that the two sides were able to come up with a solution soon rather than later,” Tšukulu said.

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