Textile  workers to down tools

Textile workers to down tools

MASERU – TEXTILE workers are set to down tools on Monday in protest over a seven percent wage increment, thepost heard yesterday.
Trade union bosses told a press conference yesterday that they are going to present a petition to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane asking him to intervene because Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo is taking sides with employers. The unions want the minimum wage to be set at M2 000.

They said employers had pushed for a seven percent wage hike and “this minister (Rantšo) has agreed with them and she has not given any reason for that”.
The union leaders said in 2012 the government had promised that factory workers would be paid a minimum wage of M2 020, which at that time was M480 less than what the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommended.

They said six years later, there has been no meaningful change on the status of workers and the minimum wage issue.
The unions said they are disappointed with Rantšo after she simply fell for the employers’ demands.
The strike is being organized by Samuel Mokhele, from the National Clothing and Allied Textile Workers Union (NACTWO).
He said the minister does not work like the custodian of the Labour Code.

Mokhele said the Labour Code, section 50 (3) “clearly says there should be a publication of intended percentage on a gazette seeking public comments/opinions for a period of 30 days once the board has failed to reach an agreement but to date she has failed to” issue the gazette.
He said the living wage in 2012 was rated at M2 500 and today it should be M3 000 but they are proposing a meagre M2 000.
“The minimum wage in this country is very low and far below the living wage,” Mokhele said.

Employers have put the minimum wage at M1 238, he said.
He said a presentation by the Director of National Employment Services done to the Wages Advisory Board had clearly shown that textile workers are earning far below the living wage.
He said the presentation shows that it is only the construction sector that is earning a living wage.

“But unfortunately the current government is ignoring this advice as it is recommending seven percent, which is clearly a proposal of the employers,” he said.
He also said there have been no efforts from the government to establish if it is true that employers cannot afford to pay workers a living wage.
“This is what we mean when saying the minimum wage of this country has been poorly and unprofessionally handled by the government and this contributes terribly in the economy of this country. Large numbers of workers are victims of all these acts,” he added.

Labour Commissioner ’Mamohale Matsoso said the Wages Advisory Board does not allow bargaining.
“This is where the government is advised and helped to rescue vulnerable workers but position bargaining is very wrong,” Matsoso said.
She also said workers’ unions are the ones responsible for approaching and negotiating with employers on wages not the government.
“The law clearly gives them an opportunity to approach employers,” she said.

Matsoso also said the minimum wage is set by the workers, employers and the advisory board then passes it to the ministry.
“If they do not reach a solid conclusion the ministry will choose what to do,” she added.
Matsoso said wages should not increase in a way that will close textiles and expel investors.

“They are free to meet investors and pursue discussions,” Matsoso said.
“The advisory board is responsible for advising the minister. It’s either then that the ministry will decide whether to agree or not,” she added.
Secretary of the board, ’Maqenehelo Mahlo, said the government is advised and does not take sides.

“And the board is responsible for making suggestions to the ministry even though I cannot go into details with it,” she said.
“We never stopped unions from helping workers as the law allows them to do so but we do not have to intervene unless workers involved are vulnerable,” she added.

Nkheli Liphoto

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