‘Full-swing’ teachers’ strike next week

‘Full-swing’ teachers’ strike next week

MASERU – FIREBRAND Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) spokesman Letsatsi Ntsibolane says the teachers’ strike will be in full swing on Monday.
The teachers’ unions and the government have been locked in endless squabbles for weeks.
Ntsibolane, who is currently challenging his dismissal in court for leading the strike, said he is happy that his case will be heard on an urgent basis.
He accused the Ministry of Education of not showing up for negotiations when negotiations with the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) began.

“They sent their lawyer to perform the minister and principal secretary’s roles,” he said.
He said the lawyer was not well briefed on some issues and they would be sitting again tomorrow with the hope that this time around the lawyer would have gathered the necessary details.
Ntsibolane said the LTTU’s conciliation will begin this Friday while they are going for the strike on Monday.

“The ministry has not said a thing to us about that issue,” he said.
The LTTU Secretary General ’Mapitso Molai said their aim was to combine the unions’ grievances but then the ministry decided to separate them from the LAT.

Molai said they tabled their six top priorities which include a salary increase, salary and career structure review, repeal of teaching service regulations and hiring of principals on permanent and pensionable contract.
Their concerns also include the new curriculum, teaching books and learning materials dissemination in schools and electronic filing system.
Molai said the files they are using now are not clear and they even disappear at the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) “so this frustrates us when we have to get our terminal benefits”.

She said their push to repeal the Teaching Service Act has run into problems after the ministry indicated they will not do it.
She said the ministry has told them that it is not only teachers who are not being paid according to their qualifications.
Molai said Grade 7 students under the new curriculum still do not have books and they are still kept in Maseru because there is a fight over tenders to disseminate those books.
She said Ntsibolane’s issue is simply a government’s plan to threaten teachers to fight for their rights.

“We will not be intimidated. We are not scared because we know what we are fighting for is within the law,” Molai argued.
She said Ntsibolane should be allowed to go back to work.

Meanwhile, Education International, a worldwide association of teachers, has written a scathing letter to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane warning him that his administration should respect the trade unions’ rights of Lesotho teachers, as guaranteed by national and international labour laws.

The letter further read that Thabane’s government has indeed breached the rights to freedom of association and to collective bargaining of Lesotho teachers’ unions on several occasions in the past months.
It further says the violation of unions’ rights include the non-implementation of the collective agreement signed on 11 September 2018 with the teachers unions LAT, LTTU and Lesotho School principal Associations.
Instead, the government was using delaying tactics not to meet the legitimate demands of teachers.

The letter signed by Education International Secretary General, David Edwards, said the legal action was meant to restrain the teachers’ right to strike on the unfounded grounds that the minority union could not engage in an industrial action.
“Procedurally (it is an) incorrect disciplinary measure against trade union leaders for taking part in unlawful industrial action, including the unfair dismissal of Ntsibolane, LAT chairperson of Maseru branch,” Edward says in the letter.

The letter warns the government against the harassment and intimidation of teachers’ unionists, including the arbitrary arrest of Thaabe Koleile, LAT general secretary in November 2018.
It also states that the other offence include interference in teacher unions activities, including police intimidation to prevent union members from holding meetings.
Education International urges the government to abide by its national and international obligations to respect the right to freedom of association and to collective bargaining of Lesotho teachers as guaranteed by the Lesotho Labor Code and the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.

“We furthermore urge the Minister of Education and Training to withdraw the letter of dismissal of Ntsibolane and to meet without further delays the legitimate demands of teachers’ betterment of their working conditions and for salaries that are commensurate with professional qualifications,” the letter states.

Edward says they are already in communication with the ILO regarding the situation in Lesotho and “we serve the right to inform them of any new developments that may breach international labour standards”.
“We are considering filing a complaint with the ILO committee on freedom of association,” the letter concluded.
The letter was copied to the Minister of Education, Minister of Labor, Government Secretary, USA Ambassador, the LAT, LTTU and ILO.

Nkheli Liphoto

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