HUNDREDS of workers from different private sectors including factory workers are expected to attend a protest march in Maseru on Monday.
Factory, bank, construction, mining and quarrying, wholesale workers and caterers are set to petition Prime Minister Thomas Thabane over what they call “poor and unprofessional handling” of their minimum wage grievances. The workers will also petition Minister of Labour and Employment Keketso Rantšo and Parliament.
Tšepang Makakole, the deputy secretary of the National Clothing and Textile and Allied Workers Union said they have also engaged opposition parties to join the protest.
“We have extended special invitations to political parties in and outside of parliament but we are not expecting their cadres to clad in their party colors, as we would not want our grievances to be politicised,” Mr Makakole said.
The workers from nine unions secured a permit for the set date where they have also extended an invitation to political parties in and in opposition of government.
The procession will leave the Maseru Race Course at 10:00am and walk via Katlehong to Moshoeshoe I statue the final destination.
Makakole said the petition comes after a rejection for the proposed 7% increment that the government intends to seek public input on.
“The minister is failing to do her part and we would like the Prime Minister to put her to order and make her deliver as she is expected. This minimum wage has remained low for way too long and is therefore below the living standards.
“We are expecting a factory worker who has just been hired to at least be given M2000 as their minimum wage. The M1238 that the workers are getting is not enough to live on. We would also like to see a 15% salary increase for other sectors,” Makakole said.
He said they chose to hold the procession on Monday because they wanted their employers to “feel the pinch” of their absence as there will not be any production in their workplaces.
“We know that some will still go to work because they are parasites who want to others to fight for them and they know that there is nothing we can do to force them to join the procession. However, we would really want to see workers going out in their numbers,” Makakole said.
Trade unions have been calling for restructuring of the minimum wage since 2012, but all in vain.
A study commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2012 indicated that the living wage in Lesotho is around M2850, with the Central Bank showing that textile factories could afford to pay workers M1391 in 2012.
The negotiations for wage increases are ongoing but the Wages Advisory Board (WAB), employers and the workers have failed to reach a consensus on the rate for adjustment for the 2018/19 financial year.
The WAB is a statutory body established “to advise the Minister and the National Advisory Committee on Labour and such other matters relating to wages and conditions of employment as the Minister may refer to it”.
It is chaired by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, the board is made up of 12 employers’ representatives and 12 workers’ representatives who are mainly from labour federations. There are also representative from the Central Bank, the Bureau of Statistics and the senior economic planner from the Ministry of Labour.
The trade unions also queried the delay in the issuance of a draft gazette seeking public opinion on the proposed minimum wage adjustment following the last meeting of the WAB in 8th May 2018.
They said this has burdened the workers given the increase in the cost of living as a result of Value Added Tax from 14 percent to 15 percent in April this year, coupled with increment in taxi fares to be effected on 1 July, 2018.
Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), Lentsoe La Sechaba Trade Union, United Textile Employee Trade Union (UNITE) and Construction, Mining and Quarry Trade Union (CMQ) are some of the unions taking part in the demonstration. The others are Lesotho Association of Bank Employers (LABE), Lesotho Wholesale, Catering and Allied Workers Union (LEWCAWU), Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA) and Survivors of Lesotho Dams (SOLD).