MASERU — The All Basotho Convention (ABC) says it will lay new ground rules for factory owners in a bid to improve wages in the textile industry if it wins the May 26 election.
The party’s leader, Thomas Thabane, told hundreds of cheering factory workers at the Maseru West Industrial Area on Friday that “slave wages” will be a thing of the past if his party wins the election.
Thabane said factory workers were earning meager salaries because Lesotho had consistently advertised itself as a country that provides cheap labour to woo investors.
While this was true in the past the situation on the ground had changed leading to the need to review the working conditions and remuneration for workers in the textile sector.
He also took a swipe at Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili whom he accused of failing to help workers negotiate for better salaries and working conditions.
He said Mosisili’s government had failed to lay the ground rules for factory owners to offer decent wages, extended maternity leave and better working conditions.
Thabane said Mosisili had never cared about factory workers and that if he had, his government would have negotiated improved wages and better working conditions for them a long time ago.
“For this industry that employs you to treat you better, the government should have had intensive consultations with your employers to negotiate better salaries for you,” Thabane said.
He added that the government should also have entered into negotiations with textile employers regarding maternity leave and other issues before investors set foot in Lesotho.
“Do not give your precious votes to Mosisili. Rather give them to the ABC because he does not deserve them,” Thabane said.
“On May 26, go to the polling stations and be patient with the snaking queues. Your perseverance will result in the ABC assuming government power.”
Thabane said when the ABC assumes power after May 26 his government would meet with factory owners to discuss new modalities regarding salaries.
He however acknowledged that Lesotho needed foreign investors as it could not afford to build its own factories.
The reception Thabane received from the factory workers was in sharp contrast to what happened to Mosisili after his Democratic Congress supporters were beaten up and pelted with stones in Thetsane last month.
At least 10 people were injured in the attack.
In Maputsoe, Mosisili was also heckled by workers who disrupted his election campaign rally.
Thabane said he was also concerned about the safety of female factory workers who often fell victim to rape after being waylaid by criminals.
“No man has the right to rape a woman and think he can get away with it. Your security is the responsibility of the government you elect into power,” he said.
He also took a swipe at Mosisili for allegedly mocking factory workers for wrapping their “waists with shawls”.
“Where does he get it putting you down like that? Why should he even look at what you wear around your waists?”