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‘Broken promise’ angers workers

‘Politicians lied about paying us a minimum wage of M2020 in once power’

Mohau Serabele
Maputsoe

Bohlokoa Mokoena (26) lives in a single room in a village called Mohalalitoe in the industrial town of Maputsoe.
The single mother to a three-year-old boy, is one of thousands of women working in the Maputsoe factories.

PAGE 12Workers walking into the factory in MaputsoeEach morning, Mokoena wakes up early, prepares food and dispatches her little son to a nearby preschool before rushing off to work in the shoemaking factory in Ha Maqele.
“Work starts at 7am, so I need to get up early and do things very fast. I cannot afford to be late for work,” Mokoena said last Thursday in an interview with the Sunday Express.
“The gates are closed at 7am, and once they are shut, it means I am out of work for that day and I am not going to get paid for that day.”
Mokoena has been working in the factory for about 18 months, earning a salary of M908 per month.
“If I fail to make it to work on time, and get locked outside the gates, that monthly wage will be reduced because no work, no pay. I am not ready to lose money because I have a child to look after, and my other need to take care of.”

Working in the factories, she said, was both joy and torture for her.
“Sometimes, the workload is simply overwhelming, because on such days, every one of us is given a target to achieve, which is quite difficult.
“It is not an easy life; sometimes, we work all day with little or no rest at all. I would not want to see my child working in the factory.
“However, it feels great when I get the wage at the end of the month. The money is not enough to meet all my needs but it is better than nothing,” Mokoena said.
Mokoena said a large part of her pay goes towards rent, leaving her struggling to afford other essentials.
“I struggle to get by, but there is nothing I can do,” she said.
Mokoena further said she was “terribly disappointed” by the current government for allegedly failing to honour its promise of ensuring a M2 020 for factory workers.
“The people who are in power today promised us that we would get decent wages if we voted them into power; they said we would get a minimum of M2 020 a month but up to this day, they have done nothing to improve our wages,” she bitterly said.
“It is clear that the M2 020 was a trick that was only meant to fool us as we went to the elections.
“Most of us in the factories have accepted that this is not going to happen. I will keep going with the little that I have for now, but the truth is, the money can hardly meet my family needs.
“We were hoping that these people (politicians) would fulfil their promises once they got into power but up to this day, nobody speaks to us about that M2 020.”

Meanwhile, the same bitterness was also expressed by ‘Manthabiseng Lebusa (36), who said she commutes daily from Bela-bela to Maputsoe.
“I always feel offended and cheated when the question of our wages is talked about. The people who promised us M2 020 a month were only fooling us, so we could elect them to power. If they were serious about it, they would have done it by now,” said Lebusa, who is a mother of three, and earns M 1,100 a month.
“Given the amount of work I do in the factory, I deserve better pay, but nobody cares about it. All I can do now is wait for the day when those in power will increase our wages.”
Lebusa said she feels disappointed that it has been nearly two years since a new government, comprising the All Basotho Convention, Lesotho Congress for Democracy and Basotho National Party, came to power with promises of improving the livelihoods of factory workers.
“Before the election (on May 26 2012), the politicians were promising us all sorts of things, top among them that our salaries, as textile factory workers, would be increased to M2 020 a month (from the approximately M800 they were earning at the time). But we have heard nothing from the new government,” she said.
On his part, the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers’ Union (LECAWU) organiser, `Mamatsaba `Matsaba told the Sunday Express that her organisation was disappointed that the M2 020 promise had not come to pass.
“Many of our members were hoping that their wages would be improved, but this has not happened and many are disappointed,” she said.
“If government finds it necessary to enforce a M2 020 minimum wage, it would be nice to the workers.
“But there is no certainly that all factories in Lesotho can be able to afford that amount as a minimum wage.
“We regularly interact with employers and we know that some of them can afford the amount while others realistically cannot. These are the things that need to be looked into before government can introduce the said minimum wage.”
`Matsaba also said her organisation would “tirelessly” keep fighting for a “living wage” for the workers.
“Our mission is to work together with government to create an environment in which workers will earn decent wages.
“As things stand now, all we see is chaos and broken promises. We hope that one day, this government will stay true to its word and fulfil its promises to the workers.”

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