THREE teachers’ unions say they will strike after failing to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Education and Training on the resolution of their salary demands.
Last Monday’s meeting with the Education ministry in Maseru failed to yield an agreement over the teachers’ demands for salary increments and improved working conditions.
And the three unions, Lesotho Teacher’s Association (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA), say they will now meet on Tuesday to discuss the rules of their planned strike.
The unions representative, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, recently told the Sunday Express that in the aftermath of their failed talks with their employer which were held together with the Directorate of Disputes and Resolution (DDPR), they had no option but to strike.
“The law enjoins us to declare an intention to strike if we fail to reach a consensus with our employer and on Monday, we failed to reach a consensus, Mr Ntsibolane said.
“We will strike and our next step is to discuss the rules of the strike and this will be done when we meet on Tuesday. The pain we endured is enough.”
Thousands of teachers from the country’s 10 districts thronged the Moshoeshoe 1 monument in Maseru on Monday as a show of strength and resolve in their long-running stand-off with the government over salary increments. The teachers began streaming into the monument from as early as 9am and patiently waited their representatives who only addressed them at 5pm after their unsuccessful meeting with the Education ministry.
Clad in their colourful unions’ regalia, the teachers spent the day singing songs denouncing the Education minister, Professor Ntoi Rapapa, for his perceived intransigence in the face of their demands. They also eulogised Mr Ntsibolane for being a “true soldier and fearless fighter for the teachers’ cause”.
The unions’ lawyer, Advocate Martin Mohanoe, was lifted high on the shoulders of some of the frenzied teachers in appreciation of his contribution to their fight.
In a move interpreted by the teachers as an attempt to cow them into aborting the planned strike, the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) in the Ministry of Education recently served some teachers with letters asking them to ‘show cause’ why they should not be dismissed for striking last November.
Mr Ntsibolane was one of the teachers who were served with the letter.
However, the defiant teachers’ representative, told the teachers’ gathering that it was wrong for the government to threaten the teachers with dismissal.
“They (government) cannot threaten us but since they never get good advice, they will continue shaming themselves,” Mr Ntsibolane said.
Last week, Mr Ntsibolane told the Sunday Express that they had run out of patience with the Education ministry after waiting for far too long without any tangible results.
“Since early last year we have been engaged in talks with the government to address our grievances but up to now there has not been any progress. There have only been tactical games by the Ministry of Education. It is impossible to reach a solution now when we failed to do so over a year.
“We have been patient with the Ministry of Education for a long time and we believe getting the certificate (from the DDPR allowing them to strike) will compel the government to address our issues. We are fighting to liberate the education sector in this country.”
The teachers want the government to pay them salary arrears dating back to 2009. They also want the government to pay salaries that are commensurate with their academic and professional qualifications as well as weed out ghost workers from the payroll.
They even want Minister Rapapa to sack the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Service Department, ’Maselloane Sehlabi, who they accuse of maladministration and being a stumbling block to negotiations between them and the government.