Teachers to vote on strike

Teachers to vote on strike

MASERU – TEACHERS from the country’s five trade unions will next Tuesday vote to decide if they should embark on a strike that is likely to cripple the education sector.
The vote comes after two unions, Progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers (PALT) and Lesotho Union of Teachers (LUT), insisted that they have more numbers than the three unions clamouring for a strike.

PALT and LUT claim that the other three unions lack the legal right to call a strike because they do not have the majority among the teachers.
This is despite the fact that on Monday the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) granted the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho Principals Association (LESPA) a certificate to strike.

The three unions claim the government has failed to review wages, improve working conditions and address other long-standing grievances.
Tšepo Lethobane, spokesperson of the three unions, said a full-blown strike is imminent if the government does not act on their grievances.
Lethobane said there are already indications that the unions and the government are not agreeing on basic conditions to avert a strike.
He accused the education ministry of “playing tricks” to buy time.

The ministry, he said, has failed to adhere to the agreement it signed with the unions in September last year.
The agreement, which ended another strike back then, had clear timeframes on when the government would address all the teachers’ grievances (see graphic below for the roadmap).
Lethobane said with each missed deadline the unions have realised that the government was not sincere about resolving their problems.

“They did it (signed the agreement) because we had permission to go for a strike so they were just playing with us because none of the issues were worked out up to today,” Lethobane said.
But the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Tieho ’Mamasiane, said the LAT, LTTU and LESPA don’t seem to want to cooperate with the ministry in solving the teachers’ grievances.
“They even said they do not want negotiations but a strike while we were at the DPPR,” ’Mamasiane said.

’Mamasiane also said they always invite the LAT, LESPA and LTTU to their meetings but sometimes they do not attend.
“We know that the union that has more members and recognition is PALT with about 7 000 members. We know who to listen to,” he said.
’Mamasiane said the ministry will work on the teacher’s grievances including those from the less followed unions.

“We heard that there were representatives from the LAT, LESPA and LTTU in our meeting today but they decided to go out before the meeting started,” he added.
He said the ministry will go to the DPPR offices on Tuesday in an attempt to solve the teachers’ grievances.
He refuted allegations that he is taking sides with PALT and LUT and they hold meetings in which they discuss how to thwart the teachers’ strike.

“I never saw representatives from the LUT and PALT face-to-face (at this meeting), meaning there is nothing fishy about us,” he said.
He said they have no interest in associations’ politics. “All we want is to make the environment conducive for teachers to do their job,” he said.

In the meantime, the unions are expected to appear before the DDPR, together with the Ministry of Education, to further discuss how their grievances could be addressed on Tuesday.
The meeting will also discuss how the teachers’ intermittent strike could be stopped.

Nkheli Liphoto

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