NATIONAL Security Service (NSS) staffers are back at work after staging a one-day strike in Maseru on Wednesday to press the government to award them salary increments and improve their working conditions.
Members of the spy agency who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity yesterday told the Sunday Express that they returned to work after their superiors informed them that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane promised to address their grievances.
On Wednesday the NSS staffers assembled outside their office building in Maseru and briefly blocked the road before being dispersed by the police. Thereafter they refused to work and well-placed sources said the unannounced strike caused panic within government, forcing Dr Thabane to summon the NSS Director General, Pheello Ralenkoane, to an emergency meeting to brief him on the situation.
The sources told this publication that after being informed of the salary and other demands of the NSS staffers, Dr Thabane promised to look into the spies’ grievances.
The NSS staffers are said to be livid with the government’s failure to award them salary increments. It is said their salaries have not been reviewed since 2013 to match their colleagues in the security services, namely the police, the army and the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).
Mr Ralenkoane promised to call the Sunday Express back and comment on the situation but had not done so yesterday before going to print. However, NSS staffers who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said they went on strike after years of frustration with the government that had failed to address their grievances.
They said they had held meetings with senior government officials in the ministries of defence and of public service in the current government but to no avail.
They said Wednesday’s strike was meant to rattle the government to a point where it would take their concerns seriously.
“We went back to work after our seniors informed us that the Prime Minister (Dr Thabane) promised to look into our concerns and influence the relevant ministries to address our issues. The main issue is that we want our salaries to be reviewed just like our security counterparts (in the army, prisons and police),” one NSS staffer told the Sunday Express yesterday.
The NSS strike came barely a month after police officers embarked on a countrywide go slow to press the government to address their grievances which include awarding them six percent salary increments.
Some of the police officers recently took to the streets and left their posts abandoned as they sought to pile pressure on the government to act. The go slow action has even affected preparations for His Majesty King Letsie III’s 56th birthday celebrations after some restive police officers in Mokhotlong abandoned the rehearsals and threatened not to take part in the celebrations slated for Wednesday in Upper Moyeni, Quthing.
In addition the demands for six percent salary increments, the police grievances also include demands for the payment of risk allowance, unavailability of police uniform and other resources, unequal treatment of police officers, imprecise command in the ministry of police and punitive transfers of police officers.
The police and NSS staffers’ strikes are the latest in the long line of job actions that the two year-old Thomas Thabane administration has had to contend with. Lesotho’s 50 plus magistrates went on a go-slow on 2 April 2019, bringing the lower courts to a virtual standstill.
They first launched similar action in July last year demanding better working conditions. Apart from their paltry salaries, the magistrates are unhappy that they are not paid transport, telephone, security and responsibility allowances.
Teachers also went on a month-long strike which paralysed the education sector earlier this year. Factory workers have also staged violent protests. Just over a fortnight ago thousands of farmers staged the mother of all protests to press the beleaguered government to reverse its controversial regulations which bar the farmers from selling their wool and mohair from the country of their choice and through brokers of their choice.
The government wants the wool and mohair to be sold from the Lesotho Wool Centre in Thaba Bosiu in a move it argues will boost government income tax earnings and ensure increased revenue for the farmers.
Teachers are set to go on strike again next week, starting on 12 August.