Teachers in fresh strike threat

Teachers in fresh strike threat

MASERU – THE Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) has threatened to down tools again if the government fails to urgently address grievances tabled by teachers.
The government has however warned that it will not tolerate any strike action meant to coincide with public examinations starting next week.
The spokesman for the teachers’ union, Thato Lethobane, said members of LAT are angry that the Teachers Service Commission’s (TSC) has been unwilling to come to the negotiating table with a serious plan to resolve the grievances.

Lethobane told thepost on Monday that teachers’ unions met on Sunday but held off a decision on the strike after the Education Ministry told them “to wait for Thursday”.
“And if the meeting fails to resolve our grievances, we are going on strike,” Lethobane told thepost.
“Other grievances have to be addressed by the office of TSC but they are refusing to come to negotiations even when principal secretaries summon them,” Lethobane said.
He said teachers had tabled a list of 17 grievances.

“The only half-solved issue is the pay-slips and the rest have not been addressed,” he said, adding: “We will strike.”
Details on the nature of the strike will be worked out if today’s meeting fails to unlock the standoff.
But the Ministry of Education says the strike would be premature.

Principal Secretary in the ministry, Dr Thabang Lebese, said the government is still trying to resolve the grievances.
Dr Lebese said the strike “will be condemned” because the majority of students will be writing their examinations next week.
“It will bring a bitter taste to us as a country,” said Dr Lebese.

He said the ministry has lodged a complaint with the Labour Appeal Court, arguing that the LAT has less members as compared to the Progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers (PALT) and therefore should not be allowed to call for a strike as this “will set a bad precedent”.
The LAT is one of the three biggest teachers’ unions and for years has been the most supported, followed by the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and PALT.

PALT, which broke away from the LAT about 16 years ago, only claimed supremacy this year saying it has more than 7 000 members while the LAT and LTTU combined cannot reach that number.
There is also a new kid on the block, the Lesotho Union of Teachers (LUT), which takes sides with PALT.

The LUT lawyer Advocate Thokoane Matete said any union planning to call for a strike should follow laid down procedures such as applying to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) for a certificate allowing the strike to go ahead.
“You will have to file a case at the DPPR,” he said.

He said the certificate is issued “to ensure a protected strike”.
“The unprotected strike might result in bad consequences, including dismissal at work,” Adv Matete said.
The tenure of principals is one of the grievances tabled by teachers.

By November, principals were supposed to be hired on permanent and pensionable terms, according to an agreement reached with the Ministry of Education.
This month, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Service were to discuss ways to implement the Cabinet’s decision on principals’ gratuities, according to the same agreement.
The Ministry of Education is supposed to have requested the Ministry of Finance to consider the proposal to amend the laws to accommodate “50 percent gratuity and 50 percent monthly pension”, the agreement said.

The government also agreed during negotiations to end the teachers’ strike last month, and that by the end of the year, it would have paid substitute teachers and provided hardship allowances for permanent teachers.

Arrears owed to teachers were to be paid after approval from the Ministry of Finance, according to the agreement reached to end the strike last month.
The ministry also agreed to address the shortage of books by April next year, as per the agreement.

Nkheli Liphoto

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