MASERU — A compromise by members of the Lesotho College of Education Staff Union (Lecesu) saved the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) from incurring millions of maloti in debt, the institution’s management has said.
‘Mapaolosi Lineo Lepota the LCE Registrar said the workers suspended their strike, which had begun on December 6, after learning they risked landing the college into millions maloti worth of debt by sticking to their initial demands.
On December 6, members of Lecesu, which represents the majority of the college’s staff compliment of about 240, embarked on intermittent strikes demanding a 10 percent inflationary salary adjustment by the start of the new financial year.
At the time, the workers wanted management to make a written declaration committing to honouring their demands in the new fiscal year which begins in April and will end in March 2015.
However, management insisted they could not commit to workers’ demands, as the college was not in a financial position to do so.
“We have since made a requisition for that (salary reviews) but we are still awaiting a response from the government,” college Rector John Oliphant said.
The strike, which was to be carried out intermittently in two-week intervals, was to continue until management gave in to the pressure. However, two weeks into the strike, management met with the workers to persuade them to reconsider their demands as college operations had ground to a halt
with almost all services being disrupted.
This was after the college council had instructed management to find a solution to the impasse through negotiations with the workers.
It was against this background that on December 17 management offered the workers a five percent salary hike effective from the beginning of that fiscal year (April 2013).
They cited the college’s modest financial position as the main obstacle to fully acquiescing to workers’ demands.
As a result of the negotiations, Lecesu suspended the strike and agreed to take the proposed offer.
The roll-out of the lump sum back-pay packages is expected to be effective from this month.
Lecesu Secretary-General, Mpholo Leoisa, told the Sunday Express this week they had agreed to the offer even though it was not exactly what they wanted since “it was better than nothing”.
Leoisa said after the payment of the lump sum, their increased salaries will be payable for the next two months, February and March, after which they expected an annual increment for the new fiscal year (April 2014-March 2015).
“We again realised that it won’t benefit anyone to put the college in debt so we decided to take management’s word on this issue, Leoisa said. “What we want is for all this to end for the sake of the students.”
According to Lepota, although the five percent increment would still compromise LCE’s financial position, it is better than the 10 percent initially demanded.
“Although we agreed to the five percent, we are still going to face a M3 million deficit which will be better to manage than if we had acceded to the 10 percent increment,” said Lepota.
Asked whether they will adjust salaries for the new fiscal year, Lepota said it is their wish to increase salaries but at the moment management is not in a position to say by how much they will adjust the
salaries “because we do not know how the situation will be”.