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Prison guards on go-slow

by Sunday Express
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…threaten to go on full strike if their salaries and ranks are not reviewed as a matter of urgency

Keiso Mohloboli

Maseru Central Prison guards went on go-slow on Friday over the late review of their salaries and rank structure.

The wardens, who insist they would only call off the industrial action once their grievances have been resolved, did not escort inmates to the courts as expected and refused to allow prisoners’ visitors onto the premises.

They accuse the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) leadership of doing nothing about the review of their rank and salary structure, which has been pending since 2011.

“The review which was done in the 2012/2013 financial year, only benefitted the top ranks of Senior Superintendent and Commissioner. The lower ranks, from Superintendent down to Assistant Correctional Officer, were left out, and although we have been complaining about this since then, the authorities are not doing anything about it. The indefinite go-slow has started here at Maseru Central and is likely to spread to other prisons next week. In-fact, we will go a full strike if nothing is done about this issue as a matter of urgency. What is even more disappointing is that the police rank structure and salary issue was resolved this year, yet our case remains outstanding,” said one of the wardens on Friday.

LCS Acting Deputy Commissioner, Tšolo Mosheoane, yesterday confirmed the go-slow and told the Sunday Express: “The major reason for the go-slow is money. Those people have been asking for a review of their salaries and rank structure for some time now.

“The go-slow started yesterday, and so far, the inmates are safe.”

The Lesotho Correctional Service Staff Association (LCSSA) chairperson, Lebonajoang Ramohalali told the Sunday Express that the warders decided to embark on the go-slow after being addressed by Justice and Correctional Service minister, Motlohi Maliehe, on Thursday.

“We have been complaining about the issue of salaries and a new rank structure for a long time, but the authorities have not done anything about it. The people affected are the lowest rank, which is Assistant Correctional Officer, up to Superintendent.

“When he addressed our issue, the minister said the case would only be resolved in the 2015/2016 financial year,” Mr Ramohalali said on Friday.

“This did not go down well with our colleagues, who decided to embark on this go-slow today. They have vowed to continue with their action until the issue has been resolved.

“The problem is the minister was not convincing when he talked about the issue yesterday, hence this go-slow. This case has been dragging since 2011, so you can understand the frustration among the affected officers.”

However, Mr Maliehe told the Sunday Express yesterday that the issue of “normalisation and restructuring” of LCS ranks and salaries required money, which his ministry does not have at the moment.

“When I addressed LCS staff on Thursday, I asked them to give me more time to address the issue because it can’t be resolved overnight.

“I gave them my word that the issue would be looked into and asked them to wait for the 2015/2016 financial year. I am working on the case, and the restructuring of ranks is at an advanced stage, as we speak,” Mr Maliehe said.

“The only way to stop the go-slow is by giving those prison warders money and I am working towards doing exactly that.”

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