Anger over 0%

Anger over 0%

MASERU – CIVIL servants are fuming over Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s decision not to award them a salary increase this year.
There are indications that Majoro’s decision which he said was meant to rein in the galloping wage bill could trigger widespread discontent in the civil service.

For the past two years teachers and police officers have been pushing for salary reviews but the government has refused to budge.
The budget on Tuesday has all but confirmed that the government has no intention to implement any further salary increases.

Majoro said the wage bill is already gobbling a huge portion of the budget and it was time to start cutting jobs and stop hiring.
While the job cuts look like a long term policy that will require some time to mull over the freeze on hiring is immediate.

He said while the government is weighing its options on retrenchments the most instant solution to control the spiraling wage bill is to avoid increasing salaries this year.
And given the sorry state of the government’s finances it looks like the days of guaranteed annual increases for civil servants are over.

The decision has met with a fierce response by the Lesotho Public Service Staff Association (LEPSSA), the nearest grouping government workers have to a union.
Seakhi Rankalele, LEPSSA’s spokesperson for Maseru district, said they are angry at the decision.
Rankalele said this has never happened in the ten years he has been a public servant.
What is worrying, he said, is that the government has not explained why it is unable to increase salaries.
“When the government was cash-strapped we got two percent but now they have given us nothing,” Rankalele said.
“I cannot explain how annoyed we are with what the government has done to us.”

Rankalele said for years they have pleaded with the Ministry of Public Service to remove grades A and B because people at those levels get “next to nothing”.
“Even people working in the shops get better salaries than those people,” he said.
He said LEPSSA had hoped that the budget would remove those grades and make a slight adjustment across the board.

Rankalele said he found it curious that there is a M50 adjustment on the Old Age Pension but civil servants, the people who work to generate the money, did not get anything.
“Who is going to work for those elderly people?”
He said they believe the government had the courage to do this because there is a law that prevents civil servants from striking.

“This is a bombshell to us,” he said, adding that the government seems to be taking them for granted.
Lesotho Police Staff Association (Leposa), the police’s combative but legislatively hamstrung group, said the budget came as a shock because they were expecting seven percent since inflation is hovering around 4.5 percent.
Senior Inspector Motloli Moraleli, Leposa’s secretary general, said civil servants were already struggling. He said if the government could not afford to increase the salaries then it should have cut the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) by 5 percent.
“This is unacceptable,” he said.

Lesotho Association of Teacher’s (LAT) spokesman, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said they are disappointed with the budget.
Ntsibolane told thepost that they were hoping that the budget would address their longstanding grievances.
Ntsibolane said the Minister of Education had promised to ask for M60 million to settle their arrears but they were stunned by the budget speech when they were allocated just M39 million for arrears.
The M60 million they have asked for has been allocated for the schools building.

He said they are going to leave classes again next week if the government still does not address their grievances.
Teachers’ associations that have been on strike have decided to teach for just a week per month.
They will spend the other two weeks picketing at the district education offices.
Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU)’s secretary general, ’Mapitso Molai, said the wanted an eight percent increase because their salaries and career structure have not been reviewed in ten years.
“We told the subcommittee that we would believe in them if the budget comes out with the 8% we asked for but it is not there,” Molai said.
“Basotho should know that there is nothing worked out on the issue (salary review) because the government has to give us what is ours. They owe us, it is not like they are doing us a favour.”
She said they were hoping to get learning and teaching materials to implement the new curriculum.

Dr Majoro said many of the teachers’ grievances including payment of gratuities, outstanding arrears, and reinstatements of dismissed staff have been met.
He said M35 million has been set aside in this budget for payment of teachers’ arrears and M11 million for teacher training.
He said there are also plans to spend M60 million as top-up funding for construction of classrooms and laboratories, particularly in the rural areas.

Nkheli Liphoto & Majara Molupe

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