Three injured in factory protests

Three injured in factory protests

MASERU-THREE factory workers were injured during violent clashes with the police in the Thetsane industrial area yesterday.
The workers were later admitted at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
The police ordered the demonstrators to disperse after they began pelting buildings with stones. They later fired rubber bullets and teargas at the workers.

The workers were demanding a 20 percent salary raise.
They said they were not happy that Labour Minister Moshe Leoma had approved a three percent bump on their wages.
The workers began singing peacefully in the Thetsane industrial area on Monday. The protest however turned violent the next day.
They also vandalized the factories’ equipment, blocking the roads with stones and burning tyres.

One of the striking workers, ’Mateboho Khomo, told thepost that they are fed up with the government whose MPs pay themselves M5 000 petrol allowances but fail to meet their needs.
“Until today we have not seen last year’s (wages) gazette, what are they doing in their offices?” Khomo said.
The workers said last year, the unions and employers’ representatives in the Wages Board failed to reach an agreement and the minister was supposed to intervene but failed to do so.

They said as a result the Labour Ministry did not issue the 2020 wages gazette and no increment was effected.
Khomo said they are surprised that the textile unions claim the government wants to offer them three percent after spending the whole year silent on the increment.
“We want 20 percent and we are never going to back down on that issue,” Khomo said.

Khomo said they are breadwinners in their families as their spouses even lost jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic adding that their strike will continue until their grievances are addressed.
Her other worry is that their unions are now encouraging some of them to accept the three percent increment.

Another striking worker, Thabelo Mokoma, said the last time they received any increment was during the Thomas Thabane administration.
He accused the current government led by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro of ignoring them.
Mokoma said the government has to issue last year’s wage gazette and this year’s so that they are combined so that workers get paid what they deserve.

“All we want is our 20 percent increment as the shops have inflated their prices making life hard,” Mokoma said.
“It is unfortunate that police shoot us when we fight for our rights,” he said.
He said their agreement with their unions was that they should propose the 20 percent increment and nothing less.
The deputy secretary general of the Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho (Idul), May Rathakane, said they are still in negotiations with the government on the issue of increments.

Rathakane said the factory workers complain that last year’s gazette was never released as promised by the Minister of Labour.
“They are mainly fighting for last year’s gazette that was delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak,” Rathakane said.
“For the gazette to be released there are a lot of things to be done. The workers ended up losing hope and patience,” he said.
“Minister Leoma is not clear which side he is on as he seems to understand both the employer and the employee at the same time.”

Rathakane said Leoma’s failure to make a decision when the two sides are deadlocked “delays the process and it leads to things like this”.
He added that the workers have been demanding the 20 percent increment ever since last year but to no avail.
“Honestly there is no reason why last year’s gazette was never released,” he said.

He said they wrote to the minister on Monday after getting information that the workers wanted to down tools.
“I could not have released last year’s minimum wage gazette without first studying what had been happening. This is because I found the two sides already fighting I entered office,” Leoma said.
He said when he was appointed minister in February, there was a stalemate between employers and unions and had to bring them for discussions “but still they could not reach any agreement”.

“I called them each week and tried to have them reach an agreement but all was in vain,” he said.
Leoma said today there will be a final sitting after which the chairman of the Wages Advisory Board will go out to consult all stakeholders so that he will be in a good position to advise the minister on the minimum wage.
Leoma also accused IDUL of causing the riots at the factories.

Nkheli Liphoto

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