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Factory fires 232 protesting workers

Bereng Mpaki

BULL Clothing Lesotho, a workwear manufacturer located in the Thetsane industrial area in Maseru, on Tuesday dismissed 232 of its 253 workers for protesting against delayed disbursement of their M800 wage subsidies from the government.

The remaining 21 workers were not involved in the protest.

The workers were informed of their dismissal through letters dated 21 July 2020 for striking illegally.

The workers on Tuesday morning downed tools demanding clarity regarding why their wage subsidies had been delayed by the management.

The subsidies are being disbursed in line with an April 2020 resolution to assist factory workers during the Covid-19 lockdown when they were likely not to receive salaries.

The subsidy programme is operated by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and has so far been disbursed twice. The second disbursement was effected last week.

The LNDC releases funds to the employers who in turn pay their workers.

A copy of the workers’ dismissal letter signed by the firm’s human resources manager, Keneuoe Sehloho, reads:

“You were advised to go back to work by the management between 8am to 9:45am after you embarked on an illegal strike but you failed to comply.

“You were then given a second warning at 9:15am which lapsed at 9:45am and you still did not comply. You were given a third and final warning from 9:45am to 10:15am, which also lapsed. You are therefore dismissed from work. You will be paid for the number of days that you worked and your leave days.

“If you are not satisfied with this decision, you have a right to appeal within five week days,” the letter reads.

The workers said they desperately needed the subsidy because they were still battling to settle debts that they accumulated during the lockdown period when they were not getting any income.

“We are surprised that instead of paying us the M800 wage subsidies, the management has chosen to fire us,” said one employee.

She said when they first inquired about the wage subsidy delay, the management said the funds had been deposited into a wrong account.

“We have since involved our labour unions about our situation and they are in talks with the factory management to resolve the matter.”

Contacted for comment, Ms Sehloho said the company did not refuse to pay the workers but was facing a technical challenge after the funds were deposited into its investment account, which has delayed the workers’ payments.

“The workers’ wage subsidy disbursement has been delayed because the government paid the funds into the company’s investment account. This has affected our ability to process the payments on time.

“However, the funds have since been transferred into the right account and the workers will hopefully receive their money before the end of the week,” Ms Sehloho said.

She said the workers have an opportunity to plead their cases against dismissal. She confirmed that talks between the company and the dismissed workers’ representatives were ongoing.

Workers on Friday informed this publication that they have since received the M800 but were yet to go back to work.

The LNDC had not responded to questions by this publication by the time of print.

Last week this publication ran a story where African Clean Energy workers protested the company’s decision to withhold their wage subsidies by embarking onto a strike. The workers have since resumed work.

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