Nurses plead with ’Maesaia over pay

Nurses plead with ’Maesaia over pay

MASERU – FIRST Lady ’Maesaia Thabane has promised nurses working for Tšepong (Pty) Ltd that she will take up their grievances with the government, a move that could help end protests that have affected patients.
Tšepong (Pty) Ltd is a company that was contracted to run several health institutions under a Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) arrangement with the government of Lesotho.

The conglomerate runs Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Mabote Filter Clinic, Qoaling Filter Clinic and Likotsi Filter Clinic.
Protests that included a go slow have badly affected patients, with some people failing to get services.
The First Lady says she will now personally act in hopes of ensuring nurses’ grievances are addressed and services return to normal.

Addressing hundreds of nurses during a protest march last Friday, ’Maesaia said she will “soon talk with the people responsible to fix this”.
“Once I have talked to them I will bring you feedback. I will bring you their response as it is so that you understand exactly how they feel about your grievances,” ’Maesaia said.

“You have complained for too long. I wonder if these people hear when you cry,” she said.
At the heart of the disputes between the Tšepong staff, the government and Tšepong management is the issue of salaries.
According to the PPP agreement, nurses who work in the intensive care unit and operating theatre should earn M8 183 per month while assistant nurses should be paid M4 124 monthly.

Chefs should get M5 231, ward clerks M2 500 and a receptionist M2 674 monthly.
However, the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA), which represents the employees in negotiations, says the figures “differed very much with what applied on the ground during operations”.

An Intensive Care Unit registered nurse earns M6 588 while an assistant is paid M3 327.
A theatre registered nurse is paid M7 288 while an assistant earns M3 872 per month.
A chef is paid M2 449, a ward clerk M2 294 and a receptionist gets M2 300 monthly.

LEWA said it was angered by the response it received after it approached the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) over the discrepancies. “The learned Arbitrator dismissed that case on the grounds that the workers are not party to the agreement (and) as a result they don’t have a right to enforce the said agreement,” said LEWA.

For four years, nurses at the hospital have complained about what they describe as unfair labour practices by hospital management and government.
The nurses complain that government departments of health and finance have “always turned a blind eye” to their plight.
Several letters to the office of the Prime Minister have failed to move hospital management and the government, the workers say.
Last Friday they petitioned the First Lady “with the hope that she can spur the powers that be to act on this”.
The petition to ’Maesaia came barely two months after the nurses at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital declared that they were on a go-slow because management was discriminating against them.

They complained that management increased the salaries of pharmacists without extending the same gesture to nurses.
Nurses were “bluntly” told that they could be replaced easily because there are many qualified jobless nurses, said workers’ representatives.
Reading a petition before ’Maesaia, a representative of the nurses, Moliehi Taolana, said grievances centred on the salary structure.
She said the union has been pursuing the employer to review their salaries since April 2013 to no avail.
Taolana said nurses wanted their salaries “to be at par with our counterparts in the public sector and CHAL (Christian Health Association of Lesotho) institutions”.

“This absurdity continues, notwithstanding that Tšepong is the National Referral Hospital,” Taolana said.
“The government, through the Ministries of Health and Finance, which are stakeholders in these issues, resolved CHAL salary issues with much ease over the past five years when the employees decided to down tools,” she said.

What irked the nurses, Taolana told ’Maesaia, is that they “managed to have access to Tšepong payroll and discovered that 80 percent of the employees’ salaries have been allocated to the management, which we found unfair and unreasonable”.
Taolana said Tšepong refused to review the salaries of its employees, arguing that the government did not give them enough money under the Private-Public-Partnership agreement.

“But surprisingly in September 2017 the management decided intentionally and deliberately to discriminate against its employees by increasing salaries of others while some received nothing,” Taolana said.
“We do not know how much the government gives Tšepong and so it is difficult to effectively negotiate better salaries and conditions of employment,” she said. Attempts to get comment from the hospital failed.

‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

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