FIRED MG Health (formerly Medigrow Lesotho) workers will have to wait longer after their Labour Court application for default judgement for their reinstatement was on Tuesday postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The 24 workers who are represented by labour union, Construction Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers Union (CMQ) approached the courts after they were sacked for going on strike at the medical cannabis producer’s Marakabei facilities last September.
They went on to file a Labour Court application challenging their “unfair dismissal” on 7 January 2020 and demanded reinstatement “without loss of remuneration and seniority”.
They followed up the court case with an application for a default judgement on 22 January 2020 after MG Health allegedly failed to file an answering affidavit within the stipulated 14 days from their application for reinstatement.
The ruling had been expected on Tuesday but CMQ secretary general Robert Mokhahlane said the case was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The court has informed us that the case will not continue due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mr Mokhahlane said, adding the court had provisionally set 1 September 2020 as the new date for the case. He said the case could be brought forward depending on the progress in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. So far Lesotho has not registered any case although neighbouring South Africa had recorded 709 Coronavirus cases by yesterday.
The workers were sacked on 12 September 2019 after they staged an “illegal” two-day stay-away to protest their employer’s “unsatisfactory” response to their grievances.
They went on strike on 11 and 12 September 2019 after writing to the company on 5 September 2019.
Among other things, they complained about the degrading manner in which they are forced to bath without any privacy before starting work.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last week declared the Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) a national emergency. The declaration paved way for the implementation of various drastic measures to curb the introduction of the virus in Lesotho. The measures include the closure of all schools last Thursday to protect school children who are among the most vulnerable segments of the population.
The judiciary responded to the declaration by announcing its own measures including reducing the number of court sessions and banning the public from attending court sessions to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
It also announced that only witnesses giving testimony at a particular time, lawyers and only seven journalists will be allowed to attend court sessions.
“Only a witness who is giving evidence shall be allowed to present in the courtroom at the time of giving testimony and once they are done with their testimony they must leave.
“This therefore means that members of the public who are normally free to visit the High Court to observe court proceedings from the courtroom galleries shall be barred from doing so until further notice,” the High Court and Appeal Court Registrar, Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai, said in a statement last Thursday.