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Police threaten strike over salary increments

’Marafaele Mohloboli

DISCONTENT is brewing in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service after Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli allegedly turned down requests for meetings with the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) to discuss the issue of the delays in the payment of the six percent salary increments owed to police officers.

So serious is the discontent over the continued delays in paying some police officers the salary arrears that some members of the police union have threatened to embark on a go-slow strike action if Commissioner Molibeli does not meet them to address their grievances.

The issue of the salary increments date back to 2015, when the then government awarded a maximum six percent salary increment to the police service and this was given on a differentiated percentage grade which left out most of the junior officers.

Some ranks were awarded two percent while those in the ranks of Superintendent and Senior Superintendent were not given an increment.

The Commissioner of Police was allegedly awarded a 5, 5 percent increment, a move that was described as “unlawful, arbitrary and discriminatory” by the police union.

The Sunday Express recently established that LEPOSA’s requests to discuss the salary arrears with Commissioner Molibeli have so far hit a brick wall with the top cop allegedly informing the staff association that their reasons for seeking the meeting were “not good enough”.

On 29 April 2019, LEPOSA wrote to the Commissioner demanding a meeting, and on 8th May LEPOSA’s General Secretary, Inspector Moraleli Motloli received a “letter of regret” from the Human Resource Officer identified as Mr Ralethoko.

“We regret to inform you that the request (for a meeting with the commissioners) has not been successful due to the fact that the reasons raised are not good enough to warrant the meeting,” part of Mr Ralethoko’s letter to Inspector Motloli states.

After this setback, Inspector Motloli again wrote to Commissioner Molibeli on 13 May and the letter was titled ‘Payment of the six percent salary increment arrears’.

“After several abortive attempts to get clarity or progress regarding the non-payment of the six percent (salary increments) from your good office, we wish to bring to your office that we are left with no other option but to seek assistance from other stakeholders. Nevertheless, we are still open to discuss this matter with your good office on the 16th May at 08.00hrs,” Inspector Motloli stated.

Efforts to reach Inspector Motloli were fruitless as his mobile phones rang unanswered. His WhatsApp chats had blue ticks suggesting the requests for comment from the Sunday Express had been seen even though he did not reply.

This publication also contacted LEPOSA’s deputy president, Senior Inspector Teboho Modia, who said he had tasked Inspector Motloli to respond which had not happened until the time of going to print.

Inspector Motloli has previously said that the union was prepared to take the police authorities to get the salary increments.

“LEPOSA will approach the courts for contempt of court and evaluation of the six percent so that it keeps time with the inflation rate thus putting more debt on the government. We will go to court if that’s what is needed,” Inspector Motloli said.

He said they had been dealing with this issue since 2015, “When the previous regime arbitrarily and with total disregard to the rights of police officers denied to offer us the same”.

“All that we want is our six percent. The sooner the six percent is paid, the sooner the stalemate is resolved. We are very disappointed with the cavalier manner in which the office of the Minister of Police has handled this matter that involves the livelihoods of police officers. All that we want is our six percent. The sooner the six percent is paid, the sooner the stalemate is resolved,” Inspector Motloli said.

One of LEPOSA members said their next course of action would be a go-slow strike action to press their bosses to give them the salary increment.

“Unless we are given the six percent, we shall be left with no option but to drag our feet and go slow to show our dissatisfaction,” said the LEPOSA official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On his part, Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said LEPOSA’s request for a meeting was not granted “because the matter (of the salary increments) is being dealt with and it is being given the urgency it needs”.

“We are aware of the sensitivity of the issue hence on Tuesday the police management went to the districts to raise the matter with the district police officers and asked them to address everyone on the matter before it gets out of hand” Supt Mopeli said without elaborating.

“We are not aware that there are intentions of a go-slow and but we wouldn’t want matters to get to that point hence the first batch of payments of the arrears has been made.

“M50 million was provided by the government to address this issue but still it was not enough because it had to cover arrears dating back to April 2015. We are yet to see how the remaining balance will be sourced.

“The police management has always been cautious not to put a time frame on when the arrears would be paid because it didn’t want to make empty promises over such a sensitive issue,” Sup Mopeli said adding, “from the end of this month going forward, everyone will be paid according to their notch”.

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