THE government has tasked the cabinet’s investment sub-committee to resolve a dispute between a textile company and its 232 workers fired last month.
Bull Clothing factory, a Thetsane-based workwear manufacturer, dismissed the 232 employees last month. This after they went on strike to protest the company’s delay in disbursing their wage subsidies from the government.
The industrial wage subsidy was disbursed in line with an April 2020 government resolution to give each factory worker M800 each for the three months to cushion them from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown. During the lockdown from 30 March to 5 May 2020, most companies were forced to cease operations and were consequently unable to pay their workers’ wages.
The three-month subsidy was operated by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) on behalf of the government. Workers were paid the subsidy for the months of May, June and July. The LNDC released funds to the employers who were in turn disbursed them to their workers.
Bull Clothing delayed paying the second disbursement purportedly because the LNDC had transferred the funds into its investment account. The company said moving the funds from the said account took longer than necessary hence the delay in paying the workers.
However, the workers protested on 20 July saying the rest of the factory workers had received their subsidies a week earlier. They were dismissed two days later.
And now the government has directed the cabinet’s investment sub-committee to mediate between the warring parties.
The chairperson of the investment subcommittee, Tefo Mapesala said the factory workers’ dismissal was one of the issues that they were dealing with.
“The purpose of our intervention in the matter is to find an amicable solution for the fired workers to be re-instated,” Mr Mapesela said.
“At the moment, there is nothing much to say as the talks are on-going but we are hoping to complete them by Thursday.”
The adhoc sub-committees were established in July by the government to managing emerging crises and issues of public interest as well as to promote inter-ministerial collaboration.
The investment subcommittee is made up of seven ministries namely Agriculture and Food Security, Trade and Industry, Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing; Tourism, Environment and Culture; Communication, Science and Technology; Mining and Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation.
While some of the workers have since been re-hired by the company, the majority remains jobless after they rejected the factory’s terms of rehiring.
The factory wanted to re-hire the fired workers afresh without giving them their terminal benefits among other things.
The aggrieved workers had even taken their employer to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) for mediation. Their case at the DDPR will be heard on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Solong Senohe from the United Textile Employees (UNITE), whose members are among the aggrieved workers, has welcomed the government’s intervention in the matter.
“We welcome the government’s intervention in the matter and are hopeful that a favourable solution for the employees will be reached,” Mr Senohe said.