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130 employees jobless as bakery changes hands

’Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — Nearly 130 employees at Astoria Bakery have lost their jobs after the company was sold last week.
The company was sold to Blue Ribbon, a South African company with diverse interests in the food industry.
Employees said they were only told of the takeover last Monday.
“Our managing director, Peter Finlay, told us on Monday last week that Thursday will be our last day at work as the company has been sold to Blue Ribbon,” said an employee who refused to be named.
“We were shocked because the company had been sold to different people yet they had been working with us.”
He said although they were not told why the company was being sold they had always known that it was having serious financial problems.
He said the employees suspected poor management could have contributed to Astoria’s problems.
“The problems started after the death of the former managing director Thabo Phohleli,” he said.
“The current manager was a workshop manager who was promoted to a bakery manager and he knew nothing about it.”
Another employee said heads of different departments were forced to resign months before the company was sold.
The employee said at one time they asked the government to help save their jobs.
“We wrote to the minister of trade and industry to intervene in April but he referred us to the principal secretary,” he said.
“We also asked the current minister of trade to intervene but he only came this week after the company had closed and we were jobless.”
“We humbly ask the minister of trade and industry to intervene in this matter and let people who were willing to save our jobs be given a chance to buy the company.”
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Temeki Tšolo, said he only heard about the Astoria issue after it was sold.
“It only came to my attention after the company was sold and 130 employees were jobless,” Tšolo said.
He said he went to the premises and met one of the managers who was at the office to file some documents.
Tšolo said he had a meeting with a Blue Ribbon manager who told him that he had asked for CVs from former Astoria employees.

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