M38 million bill in back pay for government

M38 million bill in back pay for government

MASERU – THE government will face a M38 million bill in back-pay if it bows to the police’s six percent salary demand. The Lesotho Police Staff Association, the closest the police have by way of a union, has been fighting for the increase since 2015. And in recent months the association has been piling pressure on the government to resolve the issue. The dispute started in 2015 when Cabinet refused to give the police the six percent salary increase awarded to all civil servants.

The cabinet had vetoed parliament’s decision and opted to treat the police differently from the rest of the government employees. When parliament approved an across the board increase the cabinet opted to give different increases to different ranks. The result was that some ranks got nothing while others got almost six percent. Constables, the foot soldiers of the police, did not get an increase. Superintendents and sub-Superintendents were also snubbed.

Only three ranks got six percent. Leposa then sued the government, arguing that the Cabinet’s decision was discriminatory. The association argued that the Cabinet had no justifiable or lawful reason to implement the increases differently from what parliament had approved. While that case has been ‘crawling’ in the courts Leposa and the government have been making efforts to find common ground, albeit with no success. But after three years of waiting, patience in the police ranks is wearing thin.

Leposa now says tensions are simmering in the ranks as police officers do not believe that the government is committed to resolving the dispute. Inspector Moraleli Motloli, Leposa secretary general, says there is a belief among the police that the government is not committed to resolving the issue. Motloli says in November last year Leposa, the police management, Ministry of Police and Ministry of Public Service had meetings “that we thought were fruitful”.

In that meeting, Motloli says, Leposa calculated that the back-pay would amount to M38 million. “The idea of that calculation was for the cabinet to see the arrears owed to the police.” He says the meeting also agreed that this was an urgent issue. “This was after the government had made it clear that it could not find any reason why the old government discriminated against the police,” Motloli says. He says the Ministry of Public Service also agreed to study the police pay structure in order to understand the anomalies.

He says the Cabinet now has to set aside the 2015 decision so that the police can get their dues. “But it seems nothing is moving. Next week it will be May and we are still waiting.” Leposa’s last communication with the government was a letter to the Minister of Police ‘Mampho Mokhele reminding her about the issue. Her response, according to Motloli, was that she would call the association when she had time. “The police are not happy at all. They are not interested in the management telling them that negotiations are going on well. They want to know that government is taking this issue seriously,” Motloli says.

Motloli says although the police are prohibited from striking it does not mean that they don’t have leverage over the government. “If the negotiations don’t yield anything then we will intensify our court case which is already ready for set down. That is the only way we can resolve this matter once and for all.”

Staff Reporter

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