Textile unions pile pressure on Rantšo

Textile unions pile pressure on Rantšo

MASERU – TEXTILE unions this week demanded that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane should fire Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo whom they blamed for the poor wages in the textile sector. The unions tabled the demands in a letter of grievances they submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki on behalf of the premier on Tuesday.

The workers downed tools for a day and marched to the Moshoeshoe I Statue in central Maseru to present their grievances.
They said they were not happy with the five percent wage increase awarded by Rantšo. They want a 20 percent hike on their wages.
The workers said Rantšo had rejected their proposal for a 20 percent wage increment. They said the minimum wage board had met on numerous occasions to deliberate on the wage increment for 2020/21 and advise the minister accordingly.
The board failed to come to an agreement.

The unions argue that in terms of the Labour Code the minister is vested with the power to make a determination on the matter.
Before that there has to be a recommendation issued by the minister seeking public opinions for a period of 30 days.
The unions say Rantšo already issued the recommendations on February 21 for public opinion for final determination of minimum wages gazette.
They say after receiving the minister’s recommendation, they started consulting workers who strongly rejected the recommendations by the minister.
The five unions are Lentsoe la Sechaba, Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), United Textile Employees (UNITE), National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) and the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA).

But their petition was not new music to Thabane’s ears because last year they expressed the same demands.
The unions are adamant that Rantšo is not fit to hold the position of minister.
Tšepang Makakole, deputy secretary general of IDUL, said Rantšo “should be shown the door as she has proven to be unfit for the office”.
Makakole said they want answers from Thabane before a gazette for the new salaries is released.
“It should not be after 20th March this year,” he said.

NACTWU spokesperson, Sam Mokhele, said they want their minimum wage reviewed.
Mokhele said they have realised that Rantšo took the question to the people over a 5.6 percent and 6 percent wage hike which was not discussed with workers.
He said other sectors were given 5.4 percent.
He said Rantšo did not consider other factors like families of workers in coming up with the wage proposals.
He said workers in other sectors get 14 weeks maternity leave while factory workers get only six weeks.

Mokhele said the threat of the coronavirus was real since some of their bosses come from China.
Mokhele said so far they have not been told anything clear by the Ministry of Health and therefore they demand a response within seven days.
May Rathakane, deputy secretary general of IDUL, said workers are not happy with how the ministry handles their matters.
Khethang Suthisi, the NACTWU president, said they teamed up with other unions to let the Prime Minister know that the private sector is not happy.
He said they want their minimum wage reviewed.

He argued that Rantšo took the question to the people without first engaging in discussions with them.
Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki promised to pass the grievances to the Prime Minister.
He said he is proud that Basotho do peaceful marches without threatening peace and stability.

The unions gave the petition to Moleleki in the presence of Rantšo, who did not respond to their grievances.
They were holding placards written “Keketso should be fired, we want our money and we deserve protection from Corona.”
Rantšo, in an interview later, denied the allegation that she failed to consult unions before coming up with the wage percentage.
She said she had been working together with the workers’ unions.

“It is not true that I did not consult the unions before deciding,” Rantšo said.
She said employers also had their own proposal on the minimum wage.
She said the issue of maternity leave is in the revised Labour Code.

“I asked them when they will give me the law so that I table it in Parliament,” she said.
She accused the unions of not telling the truth.
Rantšo said there was even a false report about coronavirus in the factories only to find that the suspected Chinese nationals had been safely quarantined.
“I went there and found out that the Chinese had done a good job by secluding the Chinese nationals who had just arrived into the country,” she said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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