Blow for factory workers

Blow for factory workers

MASERU – THE government has hastily retreated from its decision to push the minimum wage for factory workers to M2 000.
This followed howls of protests from factory owners who threatened to shut down their businesses after the increases.
The cabinet reached the decision after a 15-hour meeting with the unions on Tuesday.

Although the new figures are yet to be gazetted the cabinet says the entry level salary for a factory worker has been increased from M1 238 to M1 696.
Those who have worked for one year will move from M1 331 to M1 823. The salary for those with two or years moves from M1 372 to M1 879.
The unions were told of the government’s final decision yesterday. Trained machine operators will now earn M2 000, up from M1 456.

The increase is unlikely to calm tempers in the factories. The workers have already said they will not accept anything less that the M2 000 announced by the government two weeks ago.
A spokesman for the unions, veteran unionist Daniel Maraisane, told a press conference last night that they were not satisfied with the latest decision.
“We are waiting for these new wages to be gazetted and then we will go back to the workers to get a new mandate on what next step we should take,” Maraisane said.

He however said workers who have one year and two years in the factories make up only 10 percent of the textile workforce while machine operators constitute 80 percent.
This, he said, means that most of the workers will still earn the M2 000 the government announced two weeks ago.
The government feels that it has not shifted drastically from the M2 000.

In a statement last night government spokesperson, Nthakeng Selinyane, appealed to the workers to stop damaging property.
He said “all affected parties should approach this matter with calmness lest they engage themselves in activities that will have bitter ends”.
“The government appeals to all parties to maintain peace and stability, to observe law and to respect the rights of all,” the statement said.
The police also released a statement warning protesting workers to stop violent riots or else face the wrath of the law.

“We are aware that there are some who are inciting violence and we will deal with such ones,” the police said.
“They must not be surprised when we pounce on them.”
The employers wanted only a seven percent increment across the board, which would make all workers have an increment of less than M150.

The government’s new decision comes after two weeks of riots that resulted in serious destruction of properties and smashing of private cars by angry workers.
For the past two weeks Maseru and Maputsoe, Lesotho’s business hubs, have been rocked by violent strikes by factory workers.

Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo said the government was doing its utmost to ensure that its decision would favour both the employees and employers.
“I am in a position where every success will give someone glory but all failures will be blamed on me,” Rantšo said.

“I am doing all in my power, together with other ministers who are in the subcommittee tasked with solving this problem, to ensure that everybody is satisfied,” she said.
Yesterday while the government, employers and the unions were seized with the matter, Rantšo appealed with workers to go to work and be calm until their grievances are addressed.
Some workers in CBI Factory in Maputsoe Ha-Maqele went for the night shift.

There were reports last night that workers were adamant that there should be no work until Rantšo has issued a gazette.
The Maputsoe police could not comment without authority from headquarters.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli’s phone went unanswered.

Staff Reporter

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