THE Chief Information Officer in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Malefetsane Nchaka, has defended the ministry’s decision to stick with the minimum wage adjustment of seven percent saying it was an agreement reached between employers’ and workers’ representatives during the annual negotiation process done through the Wages Advisory Board (WAB).
The WAB is a statutory body established in terms of the Labour Code Order No. 24 of 1992. Section 48 (1) and it is mandated to advise the Labour minister on the wages and conditions of employment of workers.
It comprises of representatives of workers, employers, Central Bank, Bureau of Statistics and a Senior Economic Planner.
It is chaired by the Labour minister with the Principal Secretary of the labour ministry as deputy chair.
Last week, six trade unions expressed their displeasure over Labour minister, Keketso Rantšo’s intention to gazette seven percent as the minimum wage adjustment instead of the nine percent former Labour minister, Thulo Mahlakeng, had said would be effected for the 2017/18 financial year.
Mr Nchaka recently told the Sunday Express that it would be a violation of the principles of social dialogue on which labour issues are founded if Ms Rantšo implemented anything else other than the agreed position of seven percent.
He said the minister could only come up with a different decision in a situation where the two parties (labour and business) failed to reach a consensus.
“The minister can only approve the agreement reached between employers and employees and nothing else,” Mr Nchaka said.
“She can only come with a new decision where the two parties fail to agree on the percentage of increment, and she would be expected to settle on a percentage in between that of the two parties in order to bridge the gap.
“But the former minister did something which was very unusual in deciding on nine percent adjustment when the two parties had already agreed on seven percent. And he did that without consulting the wages board, which is a violation of the social dialogue principle and spirit of tripartitism.”
Mr Nchaka said Ms Rantšo therefore decided not to interfere with the negotiation process which had indicated that both workers and employers had already agreed on seven percent.
He however, said the ministry was aware of the difficult situation workers faced under the current minimum wage structure and would engage employers in the next financial year to come up with a strategy to subside the minimum wages.
For its part, the employers’ organisation, Association of Lesotho Employers and Business (ALEB), said it was surprised by the about-turn of workers representatives in rejecting the seven percent minimum wage adjustment which they had agreed to.
“What the worker representatives are doing is undermining social dialogue and being untruthful to the constituency they represent.
“The Wages Board agreed on a seven percent increase on the minimum wage and the social partners signed this. The expectation was that the seven percent would have been implemented on 1 April, 2017” said the Chief Executive Officer of ALEB, Lindiwe Sephomolo.
Advocate Sephomolo also said that ALEB had warned the labour ministry about the negative consequences the nine percent could have on the country’s economy.
“To the shock, confusion and utmost dismay of the Wages Board the (Former Minister Advocate Mahlakeng) informed the Board through the Labour Commissioner that he would be publishing for public comment a nine percent increment across the board.
“The employers submitted their objections in the form of comments indicating that the nine percent is not affordable during the current economic times and that such an increase would force some industries to retrench. Only one union submitted public comments,” Advocate Sephomolo said.