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Brewery staff threaten strike


Pascalinah Kabi

MALUTI Mountain Brewery (MMB) staff are considering a two-month strike beginning on 2 May 2017 if their management does not review their salaries to match those of their counterparts in the private sector.

However, MMB Director of Corporate of Affairs Nthati Moorosi says the mulled strike is not a solution, adding that management was ready to negotiate with the workers’ union.

According to sources in the company who requested anonymity, for fear of reprisals, negotiations to review salaries for more than 200 staffers broke down in October last year after MMB failed to honour a five-year salary review plan.

The review was supposed to be effected after the company engaged a South African expert in 2013 to ascertain if the MMB staff salaries were in line with the prevailing market rates.

The sources said the expert report pointed out that the employees were earning way less than the market rates and therefore recommended reviews of salaries over a period of five years.

The five-year plan was supposed to have been implemented beginning in April 2015, but only 37 employees reportedly received their first salary review at the time.

MMB staffers who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity accused their employer of reneging on the deal.

“We are going on a two-month strike starting on May 2,” one employee said, adding, “The Directorate on Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) granted us a certificate to go on a legal two months strike.”

The staffer said the Lesotho Brewing and Allied Workers Union had already served MMB with a seven-day notice of the strike.

The certificate, said the source, was granted after the lapse of a court order interdicting them against the strike action.

“We were supposed to go on strike on 3 April, but we received a court order interdicting us from going on with the strike. After the order lapsed, we approached the DDPR to give us a certificate for next month’s no-work, no-pay strike,” the source added.

Another source said they chose to embark on the two-month strike after the collapse of negotiations with their employer.

“On Wednesday, MMB management told us to stop our plans to go on strike and give negotiations a chance. But we refused because of their refusal to commit to anything tangible,” the source said.

Employees, the source said, felt t they had given management enough time on negotiations and that they approached the DDPR with the hope that negotiations would yield positive results.

“But negotiations failed us again. So we strongly feel that the only thing which will make management do right by us is going on strike.”

Another employee accused management of employing delaying tactics.

“In June 2016, we were supposed to receive a 50 percent salary review and increment. We asked the union to inform management that we wanted separate letters indicating how much salary increment and salary review would be.

“Instead, we received a salary increment letter indicating each employee’s percentage and we were only informed that salary reviews had been postponed to October when we asked about it.

“The management informed that both 50 percent and 60 percent salary reviews would be simultaneously done in October. We wanted them to be done in July and we couldn’t agree on the timeframe, so we decided to go to DDPR,” he said.

For her part, Ms Moorosi said the strike was not a solution, adding that management was ready to go back to the table with the union.

“It is true that a salary review process was carried out and the process identified that there were some gaps in our salaries in comparison with what the market is offering.

“However, it is not true that the process found that all MMB staffers were underpaid. There were gaps on underpayment and there were those that are overpaid,” Ms Moorosi said.

She said some of the MMB staffers had been with the company for over 30 years, an indication that not everyone was being underpaid as the workers suggested.

“If all of them were really underpaid, MMB would not have retained them for so long,” said Ms Moorosi.

“They could have found an alternative elsewhere as we know that people who are underpaid are always looking for opportunities elsewhere. So it is not true that all our employees are underpaid.”

Ms Moorosi said after the salary review process, management decided to start with the least paid staff to bring their salaries to the level offered by the market.

Ms Moorosi said the five-year plan then started with a 60 percent salary review on certain individuals who were least paid, adding that the process started in April 2015.

Ms Moorosi said another review was supposed to be done in June 2015 but could not go ahead because of the “company’s financial position” at that time.

“We informed the union that we had postponed the exercise to October 2015 but the union wanted this to take place in July. They said it was July or nothing.

“That is when they went to DDPR and they got a certificate to go on strike. We have always said that the strike will not be beneficial to anyone, especially the workers because they will not be paid for two months.”

Ms Moorosi said abandoning the strike would be mutually beneficial, adding management had already written to the union about returning to the table to “renegotiate how best we can effect this salary review”.

“The union has informed management that they cannot abandon their plans to hold the strike because their members would not believe them as they had lost faith in negotiations.

“But the question is, how many times have they tested us? It is sad that they have decided to go on strike at the time the company is going through shareholding changes. This is not a good time for all of us,” Ms Moorosi said, adding that management stands firm and committed to doing right by the employees.


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