LEC staffers suspend strike
LESOTHO Electrical Company (LEC) workers on Thursday suspended their planned strike action to make way for negotiations with the Minister of Energy and Meteorology, Mohapi Mohapinyane.
This comes after the workers on Wednesday threatened to switch off power all over the country in protest against their employer’s failure to pay them annual bonuses.
The suspension came after Mr Mohapinyane requested for five working days from the workers to respond to their grievances. The workers say the employer cannot fail to pay their annual bonuses when the company’s board has allegedly increased its sitting allowances.
In an interview with the Sunday Express yesterday, Mr Mohapinyane said he requested to the workers that they give him five working days to see how best their grievances can be addressed. The five working days began on Friday and will end on Thursday.
“I have asked workers to give me five working days to deal with their grievances starting on Friday until Thursday,” Mr Mohapinyane said.
“I will be in a position to give you a detailed response by then.”
Mr Mohapinyane had to put out fires on Wednesday and avoid a nationwide blackout after the workers threatened to switch-off electricity as part of their industrial action.
“The minister has promised to look into our issues and address them by next week. I hope he is not just paying lip service because we will go ahead and switch off the electricity for the entire country,” an employee who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal said on Friday.
The threats to blackout the country first made rounds on social media on Wednesday.
They however, did not come to fruition after Mr Mohapinyane’s intervention.
The workers are complaining that their employer last year failed to award them their annual bonuses although the board’s sitting allowances have been increased.
“It has always been the tradition for management to inform staffers of annual bonuses at least three months before the end of the year. We are normally told in advance when we are not getting any bonuses and silence means we would be expecting the 13th cheque.
“We therefore had a legitimate expectation that our bonuses would be paid this financial year as there was no communication indicating otherwise,” said another worker.
When they realised that bonuses had not been transferred into their accounts… the workers started asking questions but failed to get a satisfactory explanation from the employer, the employee said.
Instead, they learnt that the LEC board had sharply increased its sitting allowances from M8 000 to M13 000.
The board is chaired by National University of Lesotho professor of physics Molibeli Taele, who took over after the resignation of Refiloe Matekane. Information from the LEC website indicates the board’s composition as follows: Company Secretary Advocate Retšepile Ntšihlele, LEC managing director Leketekete Ketso, Lefa Motlalane, Leshele Thasi, Boshepha Mapesela and Kaibe Mollo.
“The board has disregarded our inquiries about bonuses but has gone ahead to sharply increase its sitting allowances. It has also increased its sitting frequency as part of a ploy to accrue more money yet they are refusing to pay us bonuses. We cannot continue as if it is business as usual,” the staffer said.
The workers are also accusing their management of nepotism after the post of General Manager Customer Relations post was allegedly filed without any advertisement. The position is occupied by Lesotho’s former Consul General in Durban, Lerato Tšosane.